, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 8 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga wants Kenyans to endorse the proposed Constitution during the August 4 referendum to avert a recurrence of the authoritarian system of leadership in the country.
He said there is need for Kenyans to wisely re-consider their positions ahead of the exercise since the referendum was a contest between forces pushing for reforms and those fighting to maintain status quo to safeguard selfish interests.
“It is very well known that those opposed to this proposed Constitution are people who do not want reforms. Kenyans know very well where we have come from,” he said when he hosted lawyers and church leaders who championed the fight for multiparty democracy in the late 1990s.
The get-together held on Saba Saba day at Mr Odinga’s Karen home was aimed at celebrating the achievements made in opening up the democratic space in the country.
Present were lawyers Gitobu Imanyara, Paul Muite, John Khaminwa, Dr Gibson Kamau Kuria as well as clerics Timothy Njoya and David Gitari who were among those who bore the brunt of the Moi regime. Cabinet Ministers William Ole Ntimama [National Heritage] and Charity Ngilu [Water and Irrigation] were also present.
“We do want a return of those dark days, when people will be arrested and detained and no charges are preferred against them. All this was happening because we did not have a proper Constitution, and that is why we need to change it now,” said Mr Imanyara.
Dr Kuria said he was detained because he tried to take up a case seeking to establish the whereabouts of Mr Odinga who was in detention at the time. “I was detained without trial, I did nothing wrong to deserve that, and that period can easily return if we don’t change this Constitution.”
In his emotional remarks, Dr Kuria recounted: “I suffered and I still remember those days very well, it was a dark cloud in Kenya, and that night is coming unless you all vote Yes on August 4.”
Reverend Njoya who was beaten up on several occasions during the clamour for change caused laughter when he called on all Kenyans to “conceive so that we can all deliver a new Constitution on August 4.”
“Even men should conceive by the Holy spirit so that we become pregnant and give birth to a new Constitution,” he said.
“These men and women have suffered because of the authoritarian regime that detained me; some of them were detained for pursuing the truth. That is why we are here today to celebrate together,” said the Prime Minister who is still recovering from head surgery.
He said the referendum was a duel between a progressive movement that stood for change and a repressive clique of a few self-centered individuals who enjoyed the spoils of the old Constitution since independence.
Mr Odinga asked Kenyans to uphold their “nationalist ideals and join the progressive team in shaming the No camp of the constitution debate by endorsing the new order for posterity of the nation.”
The Premier recounted the troubles and the sacrifices the pro-reform group had to endure to at least repeal Section 2A of the current Constitution and allow political pluralism during the era of a single party rule.
He regretted that the lives of promising leaders like Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia with whom he was detained had never been the same again, because of flaws in the current Constitution.
“I want it to be known that were it not for the loopholes in the current system, my friends and comrades in the struggle could be leading normal lives,” Mr Odinga said.
During the draconian reign, he said, families of those selfless Kenyans who dared speak their mind contrary to the expectation of State agencies were subjected to untold suffering.