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Let’s make political competition healthy

By - | June 10th 2012

With the country moving towards transitional General Election under the new Constitution, resolutions reached by MPs at the forum on peaceful poll should not be swept under the carpet as have happened in previous ‘talking shows’.

MPs, being elected representatives of Kenyans, should be committed to all the resolutions reached at the two-day forum, which are tailored to ensure the country has a peaceful election and power transfer.

It would be tragic for millions of taxpayers’ money to be spent on such a forum, only for its deliberations to go to waste instead of being turned into strengths to cushion the country against unnecessary threats to instability.

Indeed, while opening the forum on Friday, President Kibaki promised that as we approach the polls, the Government would provide security and promote peace building and conflict prevention initiatives throughout the country.

This initiative coming from the country’s chief executive   should be hailed as a step in the right direction, given what befell the country following the bungled 2007 presidential election.

Kibaki reminded the country that in the light of past experience that has seen the eruption of violence during elections, there must be practical commitments on how to break this cycle and ensure peace prevails.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has even suggested presidential aspirants should hold joint political rallies at least once every month to preach peace and signal that political competition can be healthy.

It is important Dr Mutunga’s counsel to the aspirants is taken in good faith, given most of the on-going campaigns have been characterised by name-calling and speeches that could spark ethnic tension.

It was not lost to many that even as the forum went on, some of the key presidential aspirants were on the campaign trail. This does not show   their commitment to a peaceful election, only months away.

As pointed out by some in attendance, the forum was about them more than anybody else, and their absence cast doubt on their patriotism and commitment to the public good.

Politicians being the ‘cunning animals they are’, it is important that the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) acts tough on those who violate the Mombasa Accord.

NCIC’s job was well cut-out when Prime Minister Raila Odinga told the Mzalendo Kibunjia-led Commission it should not try to micro-manage politicians.

Even President Kibaki’s passionate appeal to politicians was that they play a leading role in facilitating the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections.

Dr Kibunjia’s team now has a huge task to ensure political leaders refrain from campaigning on the platform of ethnicity and regionalism.

Tough actions from NCIC could as well remind renegade politicians that Kenya is a unitary state, and divisive forces must be rejected.

In 2007, over 1,300 people were killed, over 350 others were displaced from their homes, and property worth billions of shillings destroyed in the mayhem. Some of those who were displaced are still living in internally displaced persons camps, five years after the last elections.

Their suffering in the camps, weighed down by famine, diseases and the tendency by Government to give unfulfilled promises of settling them serves nothing but to portray the country’s image in the eyes of the international community negatively.

Such are the scenarios that should be avoided in the General Election, and it is the responsibility of wananchi to help cultivate and maintain peace.

We went through such a horrifying period in our history because we failed to appreciate the price of peace.

Given the socio-economic challenges facing the country, we should all realise peace is a prerequisite for meaningful development.

The Government, politicians, professional bodies, the civil society, religious leaders, and the common man should all shoulder the burden of ensuring peaceful elections.

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