, NAIROBI, Kenya, June 1 – President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga led Kenyans in commemorating this year’s Madaraka Day at the Nyayo National stadium, where they continued to drum up support for the proposed Constitution.
The two leaders told Kenyans they were fully committed to ensure the country achieves a new Constitution and warned politicians against misleading Kenyans and inciting them to violence.
“As you are aware, the road to a new Constitution has been long and bumpy. We have, however, covered much ground and what now remains is the referendum vote on August the 4th,” the President said and announced that police were under firm instructions to prosecute politicians or anyone found inciting Kenyans.
The President particularly challenged the media to play an objective watchdog role by naming and shaming people behind hate speech, lies and negative ethnic persuasion.
“Police will take firm and decisive action against those who may engage in acts of violence, hate speech or others forms of lawlessness regardless of their status in society,” the President said.
He urged Kenyans to conduct themselves with decorum and tolerate those holding contrary opinion to ensure that the rule of law prevailed during the ongoing public debate on the proposed new constitution.
“An informed citizen is an empowered voter who will not be misled by falsehoods being peddled on the proposed Constitution,” President Kibaki said in his address to the nation.
The national day is celebrated annually since 1963 when Kenya attained her internal self rule, preceding full independence from the United Kingdom on December 12, 1963.
President Kibaki reminded leaders of their noble task in uniting Kenyans towards a working and caring nation that provided every individual with an opportunity to reach their full potential.
The President re-affirmed his full support for the proposed Constitution saying its passage will permanently entrench the reforms that majority of Kenyans have long desired.
“Already, as a country we have achieved a lot particularly in terms of development,” he said.
The Head of State reiterated the need for peaceful co-existence for the country to achieve social and economic development targets, expressing confidence that conclusion of the 20-year Constitution debate will allow the national energies to be focused on the urgent work of employment and wealth creation.
The President noted with appreciation that the economy, which grew by 2.6 percent from 1.6 percent recorded two years ago, supported a 4.5 percent rise in total employment, excluding rural small scale agriculture and pastoralist activities.
“This year, we expect to grow at between 4 and 5 percent. This is because Kenyans, even under difficult conditions, continue to work hard to improve their individual and collective welfare”, President Kibaki said.
President Kibaki further assured Kenyans of the government’s commitment to providing security for all, in order to create a conducive environment for meaningful development.
“In this connection, we have continued to improve the police-population ratio. This will continue until the country attains the United Nations recommended ratio of one police officer for every 450 citizens,” said the President.
Besides provision of additional vehicles, President Kibaki said the government also lengthened the period of training police officers and initiated reforms in many other areas to transform the force into a more proactive and efficient Police service.
The President expressed displeasure with the frequent fatal accidents on the country’s roads, a situation, he said, must be contained at all costs.
“We cannot afford to continue losing innocent lives simply because of the recklessness of public transport operators and failure to enforce the Highway Code by the police,” the Head of State said and called for a sustained crackdown on unroadworthy vehicles in all parts of the country.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga on his part said that the few opponents of the new Constitution were anti-reformists who wanted to take the country back to tyranny.
Mr Odinga said while the current Lancaster House Constitution had served the country for 47 years, time was ripe to enact a home-made new supreme law.
“After very many years, we have all agreed to have a new constitution which is made by Kenyans themselves, those opposed to it are false prophets,” he said.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka appealed to Kenyans to support the new Constitution saying the ongoing constitution campaigns should not be allowed to polarise the country.
Tuesday’s national celebrations were attended by among others Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende, Deputy Prime Ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi, Chief of General Staff Gen Jeremiah Kianga, Cabinet Ministers, Assistant Ministers, Members of Diplomatic Corps, Members of Parliament, senior government officials, invited guests and members of the public from all walks of life.