, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 27 – SPEECH BY THE RT. HON. RAILA ODINGA, PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA.
Your Excellency the President,
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government Your Excellencies the ambassadors; Members of the diplomatic Corp; Citizens and friends of Kenya:
Today, we mark the end of one journey, as we embark on the beginning of another.
On the Fourth of August this year, Kenyans stood one by one in the solitude of the polling booths and voted in favour of a new national Constitution. In that moment, so fleeting and yet so historic, decades of struggle for a better future were finally rewarded.
The Fourth of August will go down in history as the date on which we, the people of Kenya, formed a more united nation, and established the groundwork for justice, unity and the full blessings of liberty for ourselves and for posterity. No one could have thought that out of the bitter harvest of the disputed election and the violence that pitted our people against each other just two years ago, we would be witnessing today the birth of a national unity that has eluded us for more than 40 years.
Today, we close a long chapter in our history. We put repression, exclusion and heroic struggle behind us once and for all. We have opened a clean new page in our book. On that page, we begin writing the story of an equal and just society. We gather here now to ratify the pledge we made to ourselves and to the world, that Kenya shall redeem herself and extend the frontiers of democracy and freedom. This freedom has eluded us for more than forty years. Each time we came close to attaining it, it slipped from our grasp.
Each time we missed it; ever-greater repression seemed to replace the justice we sought.
But a time comes in the life of every nation when citizens have to choose between the status quo and a future that is full of promise.
In dedicating this Supreme Law, we pay our respects to those who walked this land before us, who saw its beauty, and who fought for fulfillment for all its citizens.
We remember Pio Gama Pinto, Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Alexander Kipsang Arap Muge, Masinde Muliro, George Anyona, Katama Mkangi, Jean Marie Seroney, Henry Okullu, among many others who struggled for this day to come but did not live to see it. We honour Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, Martin Shikuku, Wangari Maaithai, Chelagat Mutai, and the Young Turks of the Second Liberation who pushed us closer to this day.
These are but a few of the Kenyan patriots who sacrificed to make today a reality. At great risks to their lives, they challenged dictatorship. They paid great prices to liberate our country from impunity. Collectively, we owe them a debt of gratitude. In the words of the late Sir Winston Churchill….
“Never have so many, owed so much, to so few…” We thank and honour our President, Mwai Kibaki, who has today signed into law what we endorsed on the Fourth of August.
In 1992, when multiparty politics were restored to our country, Mr Kibaki joined hands with the Opposition. Ten years later, he led our country into a new era and towards the Constitution that we now unveil.
We thank the Grand Coalition Government for pulling together to deliver this critical item of our National Accord. We salute the women and the youth of Kenya for their heroic participation in the rebirth of our Nation.
We owe gratitude to His Excellency Dr Kofi Anan, a true friend of Kenya, and the team of Eminent African Personalities who stood with us at our lowest moment in our history and helped us trace our way back into sanity.
We proclaim this new Supreme Law in the firm belief that lasting peace and security and prosperity for all can only come if we all enjoy freedom and justice as equals.
The promise of this new beginning will be challenged by our traditional enemies; corruption and negative ethnicity. We must be vigilant and stop corruption from stealing our future and negative ethnicity from weakening our nationhood. To those in charge of public affairs, may public service be what it is; public service; not self-service. This new beginning must mark the end of shallow political partisanship and herald the start of mature competition among political parties.
To all the people of Kenya, I say, thank you for taking your destiny into your own hands.
Among us today are representatives of the international community, some of whom have stood with us in good and bad times as we have continued our search for these new laws. We thank you. This Constitution is our humble contribution to the culture of democracy and human rights worldwide that you represent.
It is our solemn pledge that never again shall the laws of our land divide and authorise the repression and oppression of our people.
I have never said this with a fuller heart: God bless you all, and God bless Kenya.