Raila Odinga: Only reforms and democracy can nurture and sustain peace

IT IS THREE MONTHS NOW SINCE the National Accord mediated by Mr Kofi Annan was signed, but Kenyans are still savouring and expressing their relief over the restoration of peace.

People tell me they feel a great sense of reassurance when they see President Kibaki and myself working together to build a new Kenya.

Never has the value of peace been so resonantly and keenly felt by a people who had enjoyed an essentially violence-free past until the results of the disputed election were announced.

Every one of us must do everything possible to ensure that this peace holds and is made sustainable.

The burden of that responsibility falls first and foremost on the coalition Government and Members of Parliament.

We must work closely together to speedily address Kenyans’ urgent and compelling concerns, and create the new laws and reforms that will entrench democracy, good governance, the rule of law and the enhancement of ethical and equitable public service.

THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT THE GOALS will be easy to achieve.

While we are rightly proud of having constructed Africa’s first ever Grand Coalition Government as a way to bring a halt to violence and division, the fact remains that it is a novel experiment in which both coalition partners and Members of Parliament are trying to figure out how to do things the right way.

How to agree within the coalition government on the best way to resettle the IDPs was the first major challenge.

Right now, there is an intense and passionate debate about the large number of Kenyans being held merely for taking to the streets to demonstrate their fury over the disputed election results.

And within both main parties, backbenchers who enjoy the enshrined right of opposing Government policy are struggling to find a way to exercise that right within the new arrangements.

But despite these and a number of other teething problems, it is clear that we must seize with gusto the opportunity that the grand coalition provides to finally achieve the reforms that Kenyans so overwhelmingly voted for in both 2002 and 2007.

As things stood in Parliament, neither party has the numbers to push through a new constitution and all the other reforms.

Together, however, the two parties can entrench in the constitution democracy and equity so that no Kenyan and no community feels marginalised.

And we must adopt policies which will drive economic growth to the levels needed to effectively address the crises in land, impoverishment and joblessness.

I am committed to doing everything possible to make this coalition government succeed.

But I am not blind to the fact that success will only be possible if the bulk of our people perceive that power is, indeed, being genuinely shared by the two sides, and that their most compelling concerns are being addressed.

So even as I stress that Government ministers must support policies that are agreed within the Cabinet, that in no way is meant to stifle debate on issues that are on people’s minds and on which policy has yet to be agreed upon.

Support for the Grand Coalition Government must not be based on blind faith or coercion.

That is why I have publicly called for the speedy resolution of issues surrounding post-election violence as a means of ensuring that the restored peace we enjoy is not undermined by shorter-term measures.

At the same time, as Prime Minister, I am in regular touch with President Kibaki and Government ministers to influence both policy and actions that I believe will heal wounds and promote reconciliation.

Some of these discussions must necessarily be conducted in private, but other issues can be handled publicly.

FOR EXAMPLE, I WILL BE SHORTLY visiting with the relevant ministers the vital Mau Forest, which is one of the nation’s water towers, to see for myself how an amicable settlement to the problems afflicting the communities there can be quickly arrived at.

Similarly, even as I have stated my concern about the impact the formation of a Grand Opposition in Parliament might have on our overall goals, I am committed to respecting the right of backbenchers to organise themselves in ways which will enable them to exercise their hallowed right to be the watchdogs of the people and oppose Government policies they consider inimical.

As someone who has spent many years in the opposition fighting for people’s rights, no one should imagine that I would ever allow that fundamental democratic right be abridged.

Mr Odinga is Kenya’s Prime Minister.

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One Response to Raila Odinga: Only reforms and democracy can nurture and sustain peace

Anonymous said...

Impunity pushes kenya to the brink of
collapse therefore Mr Odinga is doing
an amicably wonderful job