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We demand more for Kibaki legacy

COMMENTARY
By | August 25th 2010

Hassan Omar Hassan

Kenyans have a reputation of having a short memory. And alas, we are at it again! Though I must reaffirm my admiration for my countrymen as we never seem to run out of hope! The same actors reading from a different script posing as reformers, raising our excitement and expectations over and again and possibly leading us back to the same path of disillusionment and despair. I pray and hope that this will not be the case this time around.

Agenda 5 broadcasts its "Promulgation Show" live on KTN and Radio Maisha tomorrow (Thursday). This time round Kenyans have a reasonable cause to be genuinely optimistic. We are ushering in a new constitutional dispensation that embodies a revolutionary departure from our past. President Mwai Kibaki in many ways represents the past though he has accorded himself an opportunity for redemption by embracing change through his support for the approved constitution.

During our days in the student movement we were of the uncompromising belief that genuine change or overhaul of Government was only possible through a revolution. We pontificated over the methodology of change where preference was given to a classical ideological struggle over the convenience of pragmatism and pseudo reformers. As we strived for ideological clarity, each one of us endeavoured to reflect the values and practice of the "high priests" of revolutionary struggles.

We revered the leaders of Kenya’s struggle for freedom, justice and dignity. Their deeds, sayings and personal qualities of courage, selflessness, modesty and humility illuminated the darkest moments of reformist despair and near surrender.

Definitely Kibaki was never visible within the reformist radar. He was a conformist conservative who did not appear to possess the guts to discomfort the status quo in any meaningful way, a conservative politician and a reluctant reformer. For Kibaki to be the man to usher in the 2nd Republic is quite a "twist" of destiny.

Energetic drive

It is for this reason that those who made the initial sacrifices and laid the foundations for the struggle for a new constitution must never be forgotten. The promulgation of the new Constitution can only be memorable if it is true to history and honours the sacrifices of all those who planted, sowed, watered and pruned the tree of freedom, justice and equity.

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Equally, we must give the necessary accolades to Kibaki for his firm stand and energetic drive towards mobilising popular support for the approved Constitution.

We must though be cautious in our optimism and reiterate to President Kibaki that his support for the approved Constitution seldom completes his legacy. In fact President Kibaki’s legacy will permanently plant its roots in history depending on how he manages the transition to the point he vacates office in 2012. In short, President Kibaki must now be the statesman, the leader.

I recall the rise and death of the reform dream under the Narc Government. A reform promise betrayed and an opportunity lost. An opinion poll in 2002 indicated that Kenyans were the most optimistic people in the world. Five years on in 2007, Kenya was a nation on the brink of collapse fuelled by ethnic hate and violence.

In reality Kibaki does bear a large part of the blame for this turnaround of events and for blowing off the reform candle within this period. As he turned his back to the promise, his government turned ethnic in character and ethnic suspicions were rekindled, corruption flourished while violations of human rights reigned unabated.

On 27 August, Kenyans will once again dip themselves in the fountains at KICC while some might even swim at Uhuru Park! Kenyans will once again "arrest" corrupt police officers, reclaim grabbed public property, walk to work if necessary and make their contributions and sacrifices on the promise of a new constitution that seeks to better their lives. Mr President, have mercy and reciprocate.

Usher in the letter and spirit of the new constitution as the statesman. Exclude the corrupt and the incompetent from the new arrangement of government and appoint to these public service positions men and women who reflect meritocracy, commitment and independence. Embrace a new value system and alienate the sharks of ethnicity and nepotism who surround you and are now uncertain and fearful of the inevitable change.

Ooze with love

Be just and ensure that all are treated equally under the law. Make it clear to all public servants that the new constitution will retaliate in the event of breach and such offenders will be punished.

Lead the way towards accountability for those who transgressed against fellow Kenyans and the nation, who maimed, killed and looted public coffers so that justice is served and impunity eradicated. Ooze with love and mercy and initiate the process to better the lives of the people. The initial phase of the transition will define and complete your legacy!  

The writer is a Commissioner with KNCHR.

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