Kenyan leaders call for harmony

August 8, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Sunday said the country must be allowed to begin the process of implementing the new constitution even as it seeks to embrace those who opposed it.

Speaking during a thanksgiving service at the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, the Premier said Kenya was now set for a great future after Wednesday\’s referendum verdict.

"We who said Yes are very magnanimous in victory, we want to embrace those who were saying No so that we can move together as a country as the new law takes effect," The PM told the congregation.

He said the government would prioritize efforts to implement the new constitution because that was the \’most important step.\’

The Premier called for tolerance among Kenyans saying those who had issues with the new law should be prepared to cede some ground in the spirit of give and take.

"This has been a very long journey, it\’s like the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness but finally Kenyans have arrived and that is what gives me great pleasure; that finally Kenyans have democratically decided that we want a new beginning," Mr Odinga said.

The premier pointed out that even if attempts were made to iron out the so called contentious issues, there will still be some defects adding that is why tolerance was needed in the implementation of the new law.

"We compromise so that the country can move on. You cannot always have your way," Mr Odinga said.

Using the Bible story of how God led the Israelites out of Egypt into Canaan, the Prime Minister said he was optimistic the country was set for a bright future.

"Like the Israelites, Kenyans have come out of an excruciating exercise of constitutional-making and should now savour the victory," he said.

Speaking elsewhere, Lands Minister James Orengo dismissed those calling for immediate amendments to the new law and said the focus now is on implementing the new document.

Meanwhile, a section of the civil society has vowed to oppose any attempts to bring in what they called \’backroom amendments\’ into the ratified new constitution.

The Katiba Sasa campaign Convenor Morris Odhiambo said: "We are against calls for political talks and the No Team should be advised to follow the legal provisions that are guiding the process."

He claimed those calling for amendments were seeking to derail the implementation of the new law.

"We are trying to prevent a repeat of the historic occurrence when amendments brought through the popular rule by the ruling class as was the case between 1964 and 1967 ended up diluting the current constitution," Mr Odhiambo said.

Kenya Human Rights Commission Acting Executive Director Tom Kagwe said the document should not be mutilated unnecessarily since a majority of Kenyans ratified it during the referendum.

Leaders who led the NO team have called for talks with their YES counterparts for political negotiations on how to amend the new constitution.

Higher Education Minister William Ruto who led the NO campaigns maintains the need to carry out amendments in the document \’in order to accommodate all those who voted against it and those who abstained from voting.\’

The final referendum results released by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission showed that 66.9 percent of those who voted in the poll approved the proposed Constitution while 30.6 opposed it.

The commission said 9,106,285 votes were cast in the exercise, out of which 218,633 votes (3.5 percent) got spoilt.

A total of 12.4 million Kenyans had registered as voters.

"The votes cast for Yes in the 210 constituencies is 6,092,593 while those for No is 2,795,059 votes," commission Chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan declared on Thursday.

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