By PRESIDENT MWAI KIBAKI:
As a country, we have come of age. We deserve to enjoy the national euphoria occasioned by the historic August 4 Referendum.
When the results were announced by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission, the victory became common property of all Kenyans. The “Yes” and “No” divide ceased. This Friday each Kenyan can stand tall and be proud of our country’s monumental achievement.
We earnestly embarked on our journey to constitutional rebirth in 1989 on the heels of the General Election of the previous year. Twenty one years later today, we shall, together as one people, have enacted our own home grown Constitution. After the twists and turns of two decades, we shall have overhauled our constitutional structure in peace time. By African and even world standards, this is a feat.
The 1963 Lancaster Constitution, which we are retiring, was the product of negotiations between less than 100 Kenyans and the colonial government. On the contrary, each Kenyan had the opportunity to create, debate the Proposed Constitution 2010 and for those of the voting age, vote for the new Constitution.
We have thus joined the countries of the world which have exercised the right to define their destiny. I was privileged to have been a player in the founding of the Kenyan nation and the struggle for Kenya’s second republic. For me both these epochal moments are precious and sacred.
I am sure the raising of the flag of the independent nation in 1963 and the promulgation of the constitution of Kenya in 2010 evoked and will evoke the same emotions among those present in both events. From 1964 we began to amend the Independent Constitution without much consultation with the people of Kenya. It may have been expedient to do so. However, as a result, eventually the clamour for a people’s driven constitution emerged.
Apart from recording history, I make this observation to warn us, yet again, that whenever we want to change our new Constitution, we must do so with utmost caution. Obviously any constitution must be changed occasionally to accommodate changing times.
The decade of 1992-2002 saw myself and other Kenyans agitate directly for a new constitutional framework. Then civil society and the political opposition worked together to mobilise Kenyans to achieve this noble goal.
In 1997 just like in 2010 most of my political work had been focused on the constitutional question. In the beginning of 2003 we thought that the new constitution was a few months away. However, political competition was to abort the new constitution in 2005. Fortunately that is now history.
The long search for our new constitution can also be viewed as a blessing in disguise. We have taken time to consider many constitutional models and principles thoroughly. Our people have familiarised themselves with the raison d’etre of a democratic constitution and its accompanying tenets. Perhaps we are more ready than many jurisdictions to implement the new constitution and constitutionalism.
Since 1963, our government did not prioritize teaching its people what was contained in the Independence Constitution. During the 2010 Referendum campaign, I saw firsthand how effective civic education was in terms of convincing Kenyans of the value of supporting the new constitution. For people to completely own their constitution, they must learn both its spirit and letter.
During the time Kenyans have privileged me with leading them, I have thought we can easily become a middle income country. Kenyans have what it takes to succeed. We are hard working. We are industrious. We are disciplined. We now have erected two pillars to secure our advancement to the next level.
These are Vision 2030, the economic blueprint for our take off and the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the legal foundation for our emerging prosperity. The third pillar is Social Vision. We must change our values and our attitudes to reflect a transformative ethos. This is the necessary moral and ethical infrastructure that will catalyze the change we seek and deserve.
I know each Kenyan expects that the new Constitution will drastically change their lives. And sure the new law must give us a new country and lease of life. However, the implementation of a constitution is a process. It takes time to implement the rights contained within a new charter. Further, implementation is a task for all of us, not just the government or a few people.
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The taxes required to breathe life into the constitution are paid by all of us. Whereas we must enjoy the fruits of the new constitution, the responsibility of actualising the new basic law lies with us. We must as citizens help the government to implement the Constitution so that all of us can enjoy it together.
Many Kenyans have invested heavily over the years towards the realisation of this Constitution. Some paid the ultimate price as they sought freedom for their compatriots. Every Kenyan who contributed their views to the constitutional-making bodies, debated the proposals upon which the new constitution was made, voted in the referenda of 2005 and 2010 and ensured peace prevailed in our county, are central architects of our new dawn.
Leadership of the young
But I specially isolate the youth of Kenya who over the years have been movers of change in our county. I am proud of our young men and women. Many have been on the frontline of national building since independence. The new Constitution is the inheritance of the youth of Kenya.
Guard your inheritance. Expand this inheritance so that you can share it with fellow countrymen and women. I have encountered the leadership of young people which will water this inheritance. I am seeing the New Kenya unfold before my very eyes, in my own life. After all, Vision 2030 is not a mere dream. The best for Kenya is coming.
Mwai Kibaki is the President of the Republic of Kenya