NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 25 – Kenya’s eight presidential candidates on Monday night agreed that a full implementation of the Constitution will guard against the economic stagnation that surrounds elections in Kenya.,
The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) presidential candidate Raila Odinga said the independence proffered to public offices in the Constitution would boost investor confidence and allow businesses to go on as usual even in the face of elections.
“By faithfully implementing the Constitution we’ll be able to create proper institutions of governance that will inspire confidence,” he said during the second presidential debate.
Jubilee Alliance candidate Uhuru Kenyatta agreed with Odinga saying that constitutional reforms assured Kenyans of the Judiciary’s integrity and there would be no reason for violent protests in the event of an electoral dispute.
“We have a Judiciary that has equally been appointed through a transparent process. There is no reason whatsoever for any political leader to call for mass action going forward.”
The Kenya National Congress’ Peter Kenneth shared Kenyatta’s sentiments saying that the Judiciary could now be trusted to act as a fair arbitrator.
“The trigger in the last election was the swearing in. The second trigger is that we didn’t think the Judiciary could be able to arbitrate.”
“I think the independence of the Judiciary is very important so that arbitration really can be left to the institutions that are put in place. Through the Constitution we have brought in some safety measures.”
An independent civil service, Kenneth continued, would ensure the country continued to run even during an election.
“The only other way to do it is to depoliticise the civil service so that we know the country can run with or without politicians.”
A process, Kenyatta said, was already underway, “We also now have the reformed public service where people will be applying for interviews and as my colleague has said, we will now have an administration in place that can operate outside of the political arena.”
“Strengthening of these institutions will go long way towards ensuring that elections now become an event every five years but not something to destabilises the economy.”
It would be critical to enact legislation on campaign financing to erase the fear that public funds were being used to this end, opined Amani coalition candidate Musalia Mudavadi.
Echoing Kenyatta, Safina’s presidential aspirant Paul Muite held that insecurity was the root cause of the jitters investors experience around election time.
“The slow down stems from investor and business uncertainties if there will be violence. If elections are fought on the basis of issues, interest rates and things like that, those uncertainties will be a thing of the past.”
On unemployment, Kenneth said he would address this concern by lessening the chances of the youth taking to the streets in the event of an electoral dispute.
“At the moment we are only creating 35,000 jobs in the formal sector. We have a million Kenyans coming out to look for jobs every year not including the 5.4 million unemployed Kenyans… I am worried about many young Kenyans who are unemployed and could use any trigger to cause a dispute.”
Narc-Kenya’s presidential candidate Martha Karua shared Kenneth’s point of view adding that civic education would also help assure the business community that violence will not erupt on account of the election results.
“A people who have information are unlikely to be manipulated. We as leaders manipulate the people to fight yet our children are never in the front line of those fights. It is other people’s children we use.”
Good leadership, the presidential aspirants agreed, was at the end of the day the only way the Constitution would be fully implemented and peaceful elections realised.
“We need to have spiritual leaders. Jesus Christ is a role model… Jesus could not be driven home with a convoy of six vehicles while it is raining on innocent Kenyans at the stage,” the Alliance for Real Change presidential candidate Mohamed Abduba Dida said.
Leaders who remedy the ethnic divide, Odinga said, would do away with the feelings of disenfranchisement communities feel and the subsequent taking up of arms: “Nobody will come up and flaunt ethnic figures and say this block and this block has got this percentage so this election has already been won.”
These are qualities, Mudavadi said, that would need to be assimilated by political parties. “Our political parties will have to be strengthened so that they become more policy oriented rather than dealing with either tribal orientation or personality cults.”
“With a peaceful election next Monday I am confident that our investors, our business people will be able to say that Kenya has come of age and is now able to handle their elections in a non-violent manner,” Kenyatta concluded.