NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 12 – Kenyans on Monday were urged to embrace national cohesion, reject negative ethnicity and openly table issues that promote division along tribal lines.
Speaking during the opening of a two-day conference on national diversity, race and ethnicity, Prime Minister Raila Odinga raised concerns over fueling of tribal divisions especially with the expected onset of the general election.
“As political activity has picked up, we have tried to use our competitive political process to discourage unity and stir up ethnic emotions. We have tried to nurture an excuse that political competition does not and cannot encourage unity. We must march into the future not as tribesmen, races or a select grouping of people, we must march as Kenyans,” he urged.
The premier advised that it was crucial for Kenyans to openly bring out the issues impinging on national security as a step forward to uncovering the truth which he thought will be a remarkable step in dealing with the underlying causes for the differences in Kenya.
He urged politicians eyeing positions in the next election to target maintaining peace and not enhancing hatred among Kenyans.
“We must ensure that our competitive politics can and must be made to facilitate cohesion. We must ensure that vested interests are submerged into common interest. Only then shall we move forward in single formation with single purpose to make Kenya a better place for all of us to live.”
Odinga further urged Members of Parliament to review the Public Finance Management Bill that is currently before Parliament, noting it prescribes how financial resources are shared between the national government and the county governments.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga who also addressed delegates at the conference regretted that one of the core causes of divisions in the country is that there are people who view and think of themselves first as members of a certain tribe and act in such a manner at risk of discriminating or making other communities to feel disregarded.
He advised Kenyans to value real patriotism and shy away from values that deter peace, equality and national integration.
The CJ regretted that there were people who cared less about guiding Kenyans to appreciate diversity and use it as a strength as opposed to negative tribalism.
Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo warned leaders who were still inciting Kenyans that they would face the consequences of breaking any laws provided under the new constitution with threats to national cohesion and peace of the country being an important consideration especially with the coming of the general elections in the next months.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator in Kenya Aeneas Chuma congratulated Kenya for the remarkable steps in promoting peace and reconciliation.
He also commended Kenya for the ongoing process of implementing the new constitution acknowledging that key constitutional institutions had been created, reformed and were already operational especially the judicial reforms and the various commissions established to anchor national stability.
However, he said a lot more needed to be done.
He said UNDP was concerned that internally displaced persons were still in camps four years since the violence occurred.
Chuma also reminded Kenyans that the war of making leaders to shake off their tribal hats remained quite a challenge as he called for more vigorous actions to address it.
He also asked the top leadership to clarify on the date of the general election to ease the growing tension across the country.