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Voting is your right, but exercise it wisely

By | August 4th 2010 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

It is official, and from no less than the highest office in the land: Go out and vote as you choose today, but please do so in peace.

The President’s short radio and televised address to the nation was free of flowery language, lean and to the point.

No one expects the carnage that accompanied the announcement of the final ballot tally of 2007, and certainly no leaders, cleric, layperson, lobby group or association has been left out.

Everyone’s message has been one of freedom, choice, sobriety and common sense. But that is not to say there are no busybodies planning mischief.

But these disruptive elements will be dealt with by State machinery that is on the lookout, and by right thinking Kenyans, who may not like another peek into the abyss that beckoned after the last General Election.

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Post-election violence of January 2008 ejected more 300,000 Kenyans onto the roadside and inhospitable forests from cosy environments they called home for decades.

The signing of the National Accord between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga promised to resettle the internally displaced families as and when funds became available from the Treasury.

This process is ongoing.

Today, however, is culmination of a 20-year-long process that, in its final days, showed a clear divide of opinion.

Burning issues

There is a Government side that actively supported the Proposed Constitution and marshalled State resources to explain the rosier future this new set of laws promises.

On the flip side, though is a determined opposition, including the Church, preaching against what they consider clauses so contentious, they warrant suspension of today’s plebiscite, until they are revised or expunged.

These burning issues have to do with land, State-sanctioned abortions, entrenchment of Kadhi courts in the Constitution and the distribution of devolved units at county level.

These differences of opinion played out daily at public forums across the country during the official and unofficial campaign period as each side sought to persuade the voter to their point of view.

It sometimes got so acrimonious and degenerated into name-calling and hate speech, but these are being attended to by the relevant organs of State.

The long and arduous journey started with animated opposition to the choice of commissioners to various interim organs to oversee implementation of Agenda Four items, of which this referendum is one.

Then came the suspect insertion of unauthorised text into the body of the draft constitution. Even as this confounded the nation, several individuals and groups found it prudent to take their claim before the magistrates’ courts to suspend today’s exercise on one or other excuse.

And as at last night, all the court applications have since been dismissed in favour of overriding public interest.

Soon hiccups developed over funding of the constitutional review and threatened to halt it. but again, high-level interventions ensured the cash taps flowed again to quench the national exercise.

A lingering concern was of possible insecurity, forcing civil society, pollsters, media and security chiefs to map possible "hot spots" following the 2008 debacle when explosive violence caught everyone napping.

Timeless message

There has been a reassuring level of preparedness, infusion of technology, intensive civic education, increased overt and covert intelligence gathering and sustained message of tolerance for divergent opinion.

That, too, is the message the Standard Group has reiterated for weeks now.

And that message remains valid today. Kenya is bigger than our self-interest. The physical confrontation was accomplished by the pre-Independence freedom fighters.

Today, we can only revise the constitution they gave us through the ballot box. Let our diversity be the cement and building blocks of a new resolve after today’s referendum.

‘Yes’ or ‘No’, this is the only Kenya we know. Vote for nationhood. Vote for Kenya.

proposed constitution National Accord referendum
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