Democracy is an incredible thing.
The fact that we, as a people, can organise ourselves into a peaceful society and work together for the benefit of all is what makes us remarkable, and what makes us human.
Democracy translates as people power. And that is what it should be. Not power, exerted by one person over everybody. Not power, collected into the hands of a few individuals. Not power, granted only to certain sections of society, and not power, executed uncompassionately, unaccountably and unscrupulously. But the power for good.
Kenya is a remarkable country, made up of a myriad communities who today share an anthem and a flag but most importantly, share a country. We share schools, hospitals and roads, and contribute to each and every other person’s elevation and our shared quality of life.
We are engaged in a constant endeavour to improve this our country and to make it a truly modern and developed society. That is a noble quest to pursue.
But underpinning all of this, are the institutions and organisations required to maintain the apparatus that safeguard democracy and a viable state.
Absence of strong institutions can only result into a failed state. An eventuality I shudder to contemplate yet it is a reality we have witnessed in our region.
I am privileged to be addressing this conference and will take the opportunity to stress my commitment to the upkeep of, and trust in, the independence of institutions such as the IEBC, whose very creation was to ensure that as a democratic country, we conduct elections fairly, transparently and peacefully. To ensure that the great light of democracy shines over us all.
For the IEBC to be bolstered by the independence they need to maintain credibility, and ensure vital public trust, they must be given space to operate. We must not be chipping at its body with constant negative rhetoric that undermine its credibility in the court of public opinion.
While their foremost obligation is to be accountable to the people of Kenya, they must not be harried by politicians, or marred by partisan political warfare that taints their very foundations and respect.
They need to be given not only the tools to carry out their duties, but the respect and most importantly, our confidence, to enable them to tell we politicians what is right, and what is wrong. Who has received more votes than the other. In our constitution they alone are granted the right to tally and announce results on behalf of the people whom they have been appointed to represent. And if we politicians are not satisfied with their verdict then the constitution of the State of Kenya has opened a door for a petition through the courts.
To threaten these institutions, malign them or disrespect these established channels for recourse is to undermine the foundations that hold together our young and fragile country.
The majority of Kenyans do not have another country to run to. Kenya is all they have. And we are in this ship together.
Those who would rather break this ship into two or more pieces in case they do not get elected should refer to scripture. When Solomon encountered the two women who both claimed to be the mother of the baby. One woman insisted that the baby should be cut into two halves. No politician should be allowed to insist that they either have the country or else they destroy it.
The IEBC we have today was newly formed to ensure public trust in their operations. The New IEBC should be blemish-free and be held high esteem in the hearts of the electorate who they serve. It is legal but inappropriate when people in the political arena, whose very duty, by public appointment, is to uphold our freedom of choice and engender respect in the functions of our nation’s governance, recklessly and selfishly engage the IEBC in endless political battles.
It pains me to remember 2007, when as a result of the contested ballot so many of our countrymen suffered violence, were displaced from their homes and are still suffering from the mindless and tragic consequences of post-election violence. But as painful as that memory is, it must remain, to serve as a warning.
It is the constant preaching of an ideology of hate premised on ethnicity or religion that create the base for suspicions that compel an otherwise normal person to turn against his neighbour to kill or maim or chase away. Yet it is not those with influence and power who suffer.
It is not those who use words as weapons, or seek to deploy deceit in order to control, who suffer the consequences of such actions. It is innocent people. The very people politicians are elected to serve and protect.
Any attack against the IEBC is an attack upon an important pillar that is a guardians of our democracy.
Yes, the IEBC like all public bodies and indeed politicians themselves, must be accountable. We must have confidence in its operations, so vital are they to democracy, and in order to do so, any doubts must be dispelled.
Yet what I have seen in recent months is not a unified effort to rid our processes of doubt, but instead the wilful manufacture of doubt, designed to taint our processes. This must stop for the sake of our country and people.
We are a young country, made up of a fabric of diversity in which we should all be proud. We have not the heritage of unity and history of democracy that acts as a reassurance to citizens in older nations. But our democracy was hard won, and it should be unashamedly protected.
We must lead by example and give our people the peace of mind that they deserve to go out and use their civic right to vote, knowing that they do so with freedom and in the confidence that their voice is equal to all others, and their stake in Kenya is as valued as all others.
This means committing to non-violence. This means standing up for those who have been disenfranchised, and standing up to those who wish to disenfranchise. This means showing the world, proudly, that we are more than fit to govern ourselves, more than fit to care for each other and more than fit to make big decisions, together.
I want to reassure all Kenyans that commitment to peace and stability is so close to my heart that I will never mortgage it for any false gain. Because without peace and stability, we cannot grow and we cannot prosper, and each and every one of us suffers as a result. Without peace we cannot have development. And without development we cannot have peace. We must exhibit the maturity and skills to navigate this country through its challenges in peace for our sake, our children and our children’s children.
We must secure our country and hand it on to the next generation so that they can build their futures upon the solid foundations of a free and democratic nation.
Yet around the world so many people are denied that basic right. We, as a democratic nation, must not squander what millions dream to have.
That means, that if you, the people, tell me on August 8th that you want fresh leadership, I will humbly stand aside and ensure a respectful and peaceful transition of power, and urge my successor to love and care for this great nation as I have tried to do.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Kenyans may recall that in 2002 when I lost the elections I conceded long before the vote count was even completed. That action ensured a smooth transition.
I am proud of that record of conceding. I urge or may be even challenge my competitors in this year’s contest to pronounce themselves on this matter unequivocally. No buts. Just commit to ensure peace and accept the verdict of majority of Kenyans. I did it. And waited for 10 years for another chance and here we are.
I also urge all politicians contending for the highest honour of representing not just your constituency, but your people and your country, to ponder the values such an individual should exhibit.
I urge all contenders in this election to conduct themselves with the humility and decorum public office not only demands of its actors, but desperately needs if we are to continue to grow as a nation.
The mosaic of politicians that we will elect on August 8th must come together with one common goal: to help to deliver the best possible Kenya for us all. We may represent different parties, but we are all united on the same journey – as the architects of Kenya’s future.
It is our mutual responsibility to put disagreements to one side, to embrace maturity of mind, propriety of conduct and decency of heart, to respect each other’s differences of opinion and lend the mutual support we require to bring out the best in each other as individuals, and in doing so, bring out the best in our country.
I want to thank you all for coming today and participating in this very important event, and I want to leave you with one final thought.
Elections come and elections go. Kenya, God willing, will have many more Presidents to come, who will all leave a unique mark on our great nation’s history. But we, as citizens, neighbours and friends, all leave indelible imprints on each other’s lives, each and every day.
Do not let democracy be sacrificed, ignored or abused. Do not let an election leave a mark on anybody’s life that undermines, disrespects or maims or kills.
Let this election be the most transparent, respected and proudest that Kenya has ever seen. Because that is the least that you all deserve, that we owe to you, and that you all owe to each other.
Unfortunately, due to unavoidable circumstances, I am unable to sign our commitment to peaceful elections at this point in time. But pledge to sign it at the earliest opportunity as soon as I am back in Nairobi. Let me emphasize again that we as Jubilee are committed to free, fair, transparent, credible and peaceful elections.