President Kenyatta with Ban Ki-moon
President Uhuru Kenyatta has said he will support whatever recommendations a committee set up to suggest electoral reforms comes up with.
Speaking to the Nation in Brussels on Friday, the President said he hoped that Raila Odinga’s Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) will, in good faith, name a team to the negotiating committee so that both the Opposition and the ruling Jubilee could address electoral reforms “comprehensively and to the satisfaction of all parties, but most importantly, to the satisfaction of the 44 million Kenyans”.
“And I, both as president and as an individual citizen of Kenya, will support whatever recommendations that they come up with,” he pledged.
In a rare admission of his personal tribulations, the President described the moment he was named as one of the six leaders to answer to charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the 2007/8 post-election violence as “the lowest moment” in his life.
He said the pain and mental torture experienced at the time had emboldened him to do all he could as President to ensure election violence did not recur.
He said he was worried by political leaders whom he said were hyping up negative ethnicity and parochial politics ahead of the next elections, and urged his political rivals to ensure that peace and stability reigned over the electioneering period.
President Kenyatta spoke against the backdrop of weekly protests by Cord to push for the removal of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) bosses from office.
Four people have been killed in the demonstrations and eight politicians have been charged with inciting hatred:
MY FULL SUPPORT
Q: As the Jubilee party leader, are you going to set a standard for what rhetoric is not acceptable ahead of the General Election 2017?
A: I think I have made my position very clear; Kenyans have gone through a lot of difficulties, especially after the 2007/2008 post-election violence that led to loss of life, property, and displacement of people, and I believe Kenyans made a very strong statement by passing the 2010 Constitution: that Kenya will never go back to those difficult times.
Now, whereas I uphold the responsibility of protecting people’s rights and freedoms, those rights cannot be at the expense of other peoples’ freedoms.
If our colleagues wish to demonstrate, it is their right to do so — inform the police what time your demonstration is going to start, which route you are going to take, what time you expect to end, and where you expect to address your people — but be peaceful and do not interfere with the rights of others. Do not destroy property, and you shall be protected to fulfil your rights in accordance with our Constitution.
But we shall not allow you to infringe on the rights of others.
Equally, we do not say it, but it is true, and (so) I will say it. We all know that the problem we had in 2007/2008 was not that Kenyans did not wish to live together in peace and harmony. What happened was as a result of careless statements by politicians, which led to clashes between communities — people who previously lived together as neighbours.
We have a clear law that states that hate speech and incitement cannot and will not be allowed. My position is that those statements, be they from Cord or Jubilee leaders will not be entertained. Those who choose to walk that path will face the full force of the law.
Q: What steps have you taken as leader to lead from the front by making it possible for talks between your government and the Opposition to take place? Isn’t it time you did so to ensure there is peace in 2017?
A: I have always said, please just go and take a look at our Constitution and the provisions there on how to deal with these issues. Let us follow those provisions. For one reason or the other, people say this means I am not willing to dialogue. Here we are again, almost two months down the road, and what are we doing? We are dealing and resolving the issues within the provisions of the constitution, like I said almost two months ago.
All I am basically trying to say is that we have a solution to a lot of our problems, if only we were to follow the rule of law. There is no reason for us to be out there in the streets to achieve what the law and the constitution has already given us.
But people are saying that we need to go back to the Inter Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG). During the IPPG days, people forget that the constitution at that time had given the powers of appointment of commissioners to the President.
So there was need to negotiate with the President, because, he is the one who had the powers. But this constitution, is very clear, the President doesn’t have those powers. Now, why shouldn’t we follow those procedures, and why should we go and get our people excited? For the sake of bringing Kenyans together, I am willing to meet my colleagues. But even as we meet, it is to bring the country together but we can’t engage in this particular subject, because engagement has to be where it belongs, which is what is happening right now.
And I do hope that our colleagues will also, in good faith, because they are interacting now, sit down, create this committee, look into the issues, bring it to the floor of Parliament, and address the electoral commission situation comprehensively, to the satisfaction of all parties, but most importantly, to the satisfaction of the 44 million Kenyans. And I, both as President and as an individual citizen of Kenya, will support whatever recommendations that they come up with.
Q: People are getting killed in the protests.
A: Now, when it comes to this issue of loss of lives, and this is why I am saying if again you want to demonstrate you also have a responsibility of saying to your people that “look, we want to demonstrate, take them through a process of what a demonstration is, and that is why we keep saying, notify the police, because wherever you have seen an incident or problem, it is because supporters have gone out to attend a rally and either on their way there or on their way back, they start stoning Kondele Police Station. Now what does Kondele Police Station have to do with IEBC? So what happens?
The police are forced into a situation where they have to react. When you have a scenario like it happened in Migori where prison officers who were transporting prisoners from police stations to courts of law are also attacked, what do they have to do with IEBC? And it is this kind of confusion that results in actions being taken. Because then it is reported that it was part of the demonstration.
When Naivas supermarket is being stoned and looted, what are police supposed to do? Should they say that “oh, no, this is part of the demonstration” and yet the supermarket management is saying “We are being attacked, protect us because you policemen are meant to be protecting us”. What does Naivas have to do with IEBC?
If we want to exercise the rights enshrined in the constitution, then we as leaders have a responsibility to show our people how to exercise those rights without infringing on other peoples’ rights. And if we were to do that, there would be perfect peace. If you can recall, there was no destruction where the Cord leadership was in the last demonstration. But as their supporters went home, you saw the destruction on matatus and kiosks in Huruma.
All I am saying is, exercise your rights. But please also show your people that demonstrations do not have to be combative. Once we have finished our demonstration, let us disperse peacefully and there will not be a problem or even tension.
I would like to end this particular conversation saying that freedom comes with responsibility. You want to exercise your freedom, you must exercise it responsibly. If we were to do that as Kenyans, we would have peace. Nobody is being denied their right to exercise those freedoms, but we are just saying that we must be responsible.
Q: Aren’t you worried that violence could recur in Kenya as we head to 2017?
A: I will do everything within the powers given to me by Kenyans and the Constitution to ensure that we do not go down that path. Whether you are my brother or not, I will not allow Kenya to be divided by ethnicity, religion or status. Kenya wants to move forward. No individual will be allowed to derail us.
Q: How did you feel in December 2010 when you were named as one of the Ocampo Six?
A: It was one of the lowest moments in my life. As Finance minister then I was signing commitments on behalf of the Republic of Kenya with Japan when somebody told that I should be watching news instead of what I was doing. That my name had been mentioned by somebody in an announcement. But now that those challenges are over, it shows that Kenya has moved. I am determined that Kenyans don’t go down that path gain.