President Uhuru Kenyatta rallied Kenyans to turn up and vote this morning to put behind them the "greatest democratic test” that was the period since the August 8 presidential vote was nullified.
Uhuru said today's repeat presidential vote ordered by the Supreme Court on September 1 offered Kenya a chance to prove it was a thriving modern democracy, as he downplayed calls by National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga to his supporters not to participate in the election.
Acknowledging that it was the right of those who did not wish to take part in the repeat election to stay away, Uhuru however cautioned them against acting in a manner that would infringe on the rights of those interested in taking part in the poll.
“I believe this was the greatest democratic test... Tomorrow (today) we have yet another opportunity to show the world that we are a free modern State. After you vote, please go back to your neighbour. Remember despite their origin, your neighbour is your brother, your sister. How you have voted, or for that matter, not voted, should not change the manner in which you relate with everyone else of the Kenyan family,” said the President.
Uhuru said the country needed to move away from the election mood that he said had slowed down development and risked affecting the economy, adding this could only be remedied by voters going to the ballot to vote for their preferred President.
“We cannot remain in a perpetual state of politicking. We must return to work and tackle the many challenges facing us as a society,” the President said, as he lobbied the international business community not to shy away from investing locally because of the political heat.
He promised that security officers would today protect the rights of both those taking part in the election and those opting not to, but warned anyone who engaged in illegal activities that they would be firmly dealt with.
“Anyone wishing to act contrary to what is planned must do so within the confines of the law. To step outside the lines drawn by our laws is to step on anarchy and we will not allow that to happen,” he said.
The President said security had been deployed to all parts of the country to ensure that the repeat election was conducted in a peaceful environment, and asked those interested in exercising the democratic right not to fear for their security.
Uhuru’s assurance came after Raila asked his supporters to stay away from polling stations, instead asking them to remain at home to avoid a confrontation with the police.
Earlier, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati had castigated security officers for using excessive force in dealing with protesters, and asked the Kenya Police Service and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to discipline those using excessive force while dealing with the demonstrators.
But the President appeared to give a thumbs-up to the law enforcers, saying they had his support in dealing with acts of lawlessness.
“Let the security officers serve without hindrance as this is their duty and right. They have my support and will continue to have it during and after the election,” said Uhuru.
He asked those who choose to vote today and those who follow Raila’s advice to ensure respect for each other’s political decisions and maintain peace even after the process.
The President said he was optimistic that the resilience of Kenyans would help the country to overcome the current challenge, as has happened before, and forge ahead.
“This is how we have held together and become a beacon of hope in a continent that is faced with myriad challenges,” he said.
He however said the challenge presented by the nullification of the presidential election by the Supreme Court had given Kenya a chance to rise and show the world that it was a mature democracy.
He said following the orders of the court, IEBC had to undertake the repeat election within the stipulated time, and castigated NASA’s calls for the exercise to be shelved.