Tuesday, October 21, 2008



October 21, 2008
By Obadiah Ayoti

As the Waki report on post-election violence continues to elicit mixed reactions, President Mwai Kibaki used his Kenyatta Day speech yesterday to preach peace, reconciliation and forgiveness, thus making a slight departure from his earlier stand that perpetrators of election violence must face the full force of the law.Said Kibaki: "I am aware that many Kenyans desire justice for past injustices. But let us also keep in mind that although the truth will set us free, justice must be tempered with forgiveness for reconciliation to take root."

And on the other end, Prime Minister Raila Odinga who had previously expressed a desire for forgiveness and amnesty for perpetrators of the said violence seemed to favour retributive justice where suspected perpetrators have to face the full force of the law.

Addressing the nation on the same Kenyatta Day platform with President Kibaki, Raila said this of the Waki and Kriegler reports: "None of the commissions’ findings is really new to us. They merely confirmed in, sometimes in very painful graphic detail what we know happened and has been happening. We know where things have gone wrong."

He continued: "But being agreed on what has gone wrong is not enough. The challenge now is to amend that. First we have to ensure that those accountable are held accountable, and that reparation is made. Kenyans will not stop demanding justice—justice that will end decades of impunity where powerful cliques have been at liberty to use the country as their plaything. The government is committed to implementing the both Kriegler and Waki reports in full."

These new positions held by the two principal leaders of the grand coalition government apparently betray the underlying ideological differences in the government formed after a power-sharing deal was signed between the two.

Kibaki’s words and demeanour hinted at the possibility of granting amnesty to the perpetrators of post-election violence contained in the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence (CIPEV) for the sake of reconciliation.

And Raila, who all along has been crusading for the release of youths held in connection with the violence that rocked the country soon after the announcement of the controversial presidential election results, said the Waki report should be implemented in full in order to bring lasting peace and unity in the country.

Speaking at Nyayo Stadium during Kenyatta Day celebrations yesterday, Kibaki said although Kenyans were keen to see that justice is done to past injustices, there was need to embrace forgiveness in order to reconcile the country.

But Raila seemed to hold a different position on the matter, insisting that peace, unity and harmony would remain a mirage unless the Waki and Kriegler reports are acted upon in line with the wishes of Kenyans. Said he: "We need to implement the Waki and Kriegler reports in order to unite Kenyans and bring peace. We now know the truth and it will set us free."

On his part, Kibaki warned that truth and justice would be detrimental to the national healing and reconciliation and instead vouched for restitution and forgiveness. Said he: "Let us therefore prepare as a nation to consider restitution and forgiveness as complementing truth and justice in order to give our nation a fresh start."

However, the President reiterated that the government would use recommendations from the Independent Review Commission (IREC) and CIPEV to undertake institutional reforms to make them command the confidence of Kenyans."My government will use the recommendations of the Kriegler Commission to strengthen our electoral system and those from the Waki Commission to build a stable, cohesive and integrated society whose institutions protect the freedom and rights citizens wherever they chose to live and work," observed Kibaki.

But Kibaki lashed out at those calling for the disbandment of the embattled Samuel Kivuitu led Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) as recommended by Kriegler report saying the move was ill-advised. "If institutions are weak, we should strengthen them. And if those managing them are not capable, we can change them. But we must never adopt the practice of tearing down institutions without due regard to what will fill the vacuum they leave," noted the head of State.

The Prime Minister has been leading a group of leaders rooting for the disbandment of ECK, accusing its commissioners of bungling last year’s presidential elections results, lading to a wave of violence that led the country to the brink of the precipice.

And as the President and the Premier appeared to pull in slightly different directions, ministers and MPs allied to either of them reacted differently to the explosive Waki report. (see separate story on page 3).

And Raila lashed out at the police force which has been accused in the Waki report of crimes of commission and omission, saying its performance was below par.

Said he: "Although the police are obliged to protect the citizens and their property, they are not carrying out their duties as required. There is urgent need for reforms in the police force to improve efficiency in service delivery." On the new constitutional dispensation, Raila urged Parliament to pass the two ad hoc constitutional bills before the end of the year in order pave way for the much anticipated comprehensive reforms.

The two bills expected to be debated in the House are the Constitution of Kenya Review Bill (2008) and the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill (2008) to provide a road map for the new constitution.

Raila’s sentiments were echoed by Kibaki who expressed optimism that the constitution was ‘within reach’ now that there was a grand coalition government in place which makes it easy to reach at a consensus.

"I believe our new constitution is within reach. The grand coalition government together with the people of Kenya have the capacity and will to develop a political consensus on a win-win constitutional settlement," added Kibaki.

He asked MPs to take advantage of the grand coalition government to deliver the new document to Kenyans which has been a mirage for the past two decades. "Indeed I believe that this is an opportunity for the grand coalition government to seal its place in our nation’s history by providing future generations with a legacy of a sound and durable constitutional and legal framework," said the head of State.

On the rising cost of food, Kibaki directed the ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Special Programmes to import maize and purchase grain from farmers to boost the country’s food reserve. "This maize will be distributed to National Cereals and Produce Board depots in the badly affected areas and sold at affordable prices or distributed as relief food to the worst hit communities so that all Kenyans will have food to eat," said Kibaki.

In the long-term, the president said the government would provide farm inputs at affordable prices, implement livestock diseases control measures, extend credit facilitates to farmers and assist in marketing Kenyan products. On the escalating cost of oil, he directed the ministries of Energy and Finance to reduce some taxes on energy production to cushion Kenyans against high cost of oil.

At the same time, Kibaki said he has set up an economic task force comprising of officials from the ministries of Finance, Planning and Central Bank of Kenya to monitor the global financial crisis. According to the President, the task force would advise the government on how to strengthen capital markets and guard against manipulation of prices of equities and bonds on the stock market which impacts negatively on investors.

"The task force will draw up ma strategy that will ensure continued access to affordable credit by individuals, small business owners, farmers and industries," added Kibaki. The president said plans are at an advanced stage to create a 24-hour economy so as to create jobs for the youths. "It is estimated that 800, 000 young people are entering the job market each year. We must make sure they have access to decent jobs and self employment opportunities," said Kibaki.

The function was attended by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, ministers Kiraitu Murungi, John Michuki, Wycliffe Oparanya, Yusuf Haji, Najib Balala, Prof George Saitoti, Joseph Nyaga among others.