Conveners: Yash Pal Ghai, John Githongo, George Kegoro and Davinder Lamba
Those of us gathered here are Kenyan citizens from different ethnic, religious,
racial, regional, gender, professional and generational backgrounds. We are
all convinced that Kenya is ripe to realise the promise of the new Constitution.
Having assessed the situation in our beloved country we are, like most Kenyans, dismayed by a range of issues that persist: a national tragedy of successive waves of IDPs; the persistence of impunity and corruption; the entrenchment of a culture of drug dealing with the connivance of top leaders; the deliberate manipulation of our ethnic diversity by some leaders creating for a society that is divided dangerously along ethnic and increasingly religious lines - the list is depressingly long. We express our alarm too at the deepening structural economic inequalities in our society, creating a gigantic class of youthful-have-nothings ruled by a tiny self-preserving elite making every effort to keep everything. These are among a host of other pressing injustices in Kenya.
To this end, we pledge ourselves and call upon all other Kenyans to take responsibility for the new Constitution, resist all attempts at undermining the new Constitution, and speak up and organise against the impunity, injustice and corruption that is perpetrated in Counties and localities across this great land. The time has come to say, “Enough is enough!” and to take Kenya back.
So we say: Kenya Yetu• Katiba Yetu • Maisha Yetu – Kenya belongs to all of us!
This campaign will be followed up by a series of specific actions across Kenya beginning with meetings, rallies, Country gatherings all over the country and culminating in a People’s Convention later this year.
CALL TO ACTION
To this end we are assembled today to seize the moment; to comprise a movement of likeminded – Kenyans committed to ending impunity and ushering a spirit of Constitutionalism in Kenya. We pledge to work together to defend the Constitution; to fight corruption; to promote reconciliation among our diversity of peoples. We pledge to vigorously oppose - by every constitutional means available - those who would undermine the Constitution. We similarly pledge to directly resist those who steal from us; those who actively work to ruin the future of our youth; we pledge to oppose those who stand before us as leaders but are, in reality, agents of confusion, division and destruction!
We are willing to work together with all those who are genuinely committed to reform, including those in government and parliament. But we also recognise that there are many vested interests in government, parliament, and business who are opposed to reform. Their network is extensive and their capacity to sabotage the Constitution is formidable. They will oppose the transformation with their enormous resources, including brutal violence. So we call upon those in these sectors to stand up to be counted. We challenge those who have not traditionally been involved in reform processes, such as the business community and the police service, to join with other Kenyans in this initiative.
In the immediate:
1. We call upon the People of Kenya to take on the responsibility of facilitating the full realisation of the Constitution which we gave ourselves: by respecting it, by insisting on our own rights and those of others, and holding those in positions of power and responsibility to account on the oaths they have sworn to fully respect and carry forward this constitution and its values.
2. We call on the entire Government to give the implementation of the Constitution the utmost priority, developing the necessary laws, institutions and processes
3. We call upon the Government to take seriously its constitutional
obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of the people,
including freedom of expression, the right to education, to housing
and the right to food.
4. We call on the President and Prime Minister to work together towards marshalling their followers behind the Constitution and desist from contradictory and confusing statements that cause the public to doubt their commitment to the Constitution and the overall reform process in Kenya
5. If the President and Prime Minister persist in undermining the Constitution by, for example, working to pull us out of the Rome Statute this early after promulgation, then we call on them to cease trying to fool Kenyans and set in motion the process of holding new elections so Kenyans can make decisions with regard to their leadership sooner rather than later.
6. We call on the President and Prime Minister to immediately remove from public office all those named as suspects by competent authorities, be they local or international. To be thus named undermines their legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness and that of the Kenyan government itself.
7. We call upon the Speaker and Members of the National Assembly to speedily fulfil their responsibilities for the implementation of the Constitution
8. We welcome the Independent Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution and the Independent Commission on Revenue Allocation and look forward to the timely and proper constitution of all the other remaining commissions. We note that several other existing commissions need to brought into line with the new Constitution. We remind all the Commissioners of the sacred oath they have taken, and urge them to be judicious in their use of time and all other resources entrusted to them in ensuring the full implementation of the constitution.
9. We call upon all the above authorities to perform their responsibilities and tasks for the fulfilment of the Constitution, after consultation with and the participation of the people, as the Constitution itself requires, and in the spirit of the sovereignty of the people as acknowledged in the Constitution. In the pursuit of this objective, we pledge our full co-operation.
Thank-you and God Bless Kenya...
Yash Pal Ghai - firstname.lastname@example.org
John Githongo – email@example.com
STATEMENT ON THE PRESENT POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SITUATION IN KENYA
EVER SINCE INDEPENDENCE in 1963, Kenyans have lived under regimes that have exploited and oppressed them. The vast majority of our people have become poorer, and many are living in greater misery than was unimaginable when we became independent. On the other hand, a handful of Kenyans have become fabulously rich, most of them through corruption, stealing of state resources, and bribes from those to whom state favours were extended. Since the corrupt included presidents, ministers, and civil servants, they were protected from prosecutions. In this way there developed the culture of impunity that has caused and continues to cause great damage to our society and economy. On the strength of these ill gotten gains, some families have established dynastic politics, promoting candidates who have done little to deserve public office. There is a clear causal link between the affluence of the few and the misery of the many.
Few politicians have shown any vision about our country. What Kenya needed at independence was a leader with the vision of a Mandela who would weave its different tribes and communities into a nation committed to the unity and development of the country, and welfare of all Kenyans. Instead the politicians promoted and played upon ethnic affiliations, stirring up ethnic loyalties on the one hand and ethnic animosities on the other. They claim to be protectors of their tribes, which would suffer great hardships if their tribal politicians were not elected. But their principal interest has been to grab state power, for only through the abuse of state power can they accumulate wealth. They also use ethnicity to protect themselves from criminal sanctions, by pleading that criminal charges against them are an attack on their tribe. Electoral politics have become largely about ethnic alliances, ever shifting because there is no commitment to values and policies, merely calculations of winning office. Unfortunately some people are all too ready, no doubt fuelled by bribes, to defend their ethnic “leaders” against well founded allegations of corruption or violence. Consequently the country has become deeply divided along tribes and regions, vulnerable to periodic bouts of ethnic looting, displacements and killings, under the sponsorship of politicians.
Thus politics have become the preferred route to wealth, requiring little effort, untroubled by their conscience. If honest politicians get into parliament or the government, they are quickly infected by this culture of greed. Few ministers or parliamentarians care about people’s welfare. This is why political alliances can change quickly and why it makes no difference which politician or which party wins elections. Politicians, united by common objectives of reaping the rewards of politics, form a political class which will do their best to sabotage values of the new Constitution, especially integrity. This is obvious from the way in which they are closing ranks against the ICC but care little about the victims of the violence they engineered.
The moral decay in public life perpetrated by the political class is obvious: cheating in elections, packing commissions with political party nominees, willing to use extreme violence, and engaging with and protecting drug barons and other criminals, regardless of harm to communities or threats to national security. State officials fix and pollute the institutions for truth and justice. The police and local authorities connive with crooks to evict the poor and powerless, the Constitution ineffective against the onslaught of bulldozers. The establishment protects criminals and thugs who serve it. For the youth who are the 78% of Kenyans – unemployment has almost been criminalised. At the same time, parliamentarians are said to cast their votes at the direction of the biggest bidder; thus has the Bunge become a sordid market, corrupting democracy.
On the other hand, people pursuing social goals inconvenient to the establishment, are arrested when they criticise land grabbing or victimisation of IDPs, or seek to participate in public affairs in accordance with the Constitution. They are arrested, detained for, sometimes, long periods, occasionally charged with offences for which the police are unable to provide any evidence, or often released without any charge—but only after having suffered, with their families, great inconvenience, discomfort and anxiety: clearly a message to reformers. Ministers, bureaucrats and their patrons thrive on these illegalities: impunity for friends and jail for proponents of justice and reform.
In short, our country has become a volatile, divided, violent and corrupt place, where poverty defines the deprivations and insecurity of the majority of the people. There is justifiably lack of trust in state institutions and leaders. They have plundered our national wealth; given our natural resources, including land, essentially for private profit, to outsiders, without public disclosure; cut down our forests, some turned into charcoal shipped off to the Middle East, some for agriculture, both for private profit, while our environment degrades, and people starve; transferred astronomical sums of public money to corrupt “business” men for the export of fictitious gold and diamonds Kenya does not produce; bought military aircraft and other security equipment at exorbitant prices.
Our presidents, previously men of limited means, became billionaires within months of assuming office. The same rush of unexplained wealth seems true of most of ministers, prime ministers and their aides. Illegal appropriations of vast tracts of land, some of which are uncultivated, while millions are without access to land and the disparities of wealth, and thus the life styles among the people, are so enormous that they seem to belong to different worlds and cultures. Half of Nairobi’s population lives in slums in appalling conditions which denies them the most basic rights of dignity and survival, while a few families lead a life of great affluence. Some public schools operate without the most basic facilities while billions of shillings, mostly donations from abroad, are stolen by teachers and ministry staff, and the minister in charge refuses to take any responsibility. The obsession with ethnicity and our poverty deny the fundamental premise of social solidarity and national unity.
We are a nation adrift, squandering the great potential among our people, especially our youthful majority; ironically at the moment when people have voted overwhelming for a new Constitution which has given hope to many.
Constitution beckons to a new future
The Constitution enjoyed this degree of support because it rejected the style of politics that has dominated us since independence. It places at the centre of state and society integrity, democracy, human rights and social justice. One of its main objectives is to ensure to all a life in dignity, meeting the basic needs of even the most deprived. It aims at an inclusive and vibrant democracy, through wide participation of the people in public affairs, honest leadership, and full accountability for the conduct of the government. It seeks to transcend tribal politics and to unite us in our commitment to new Constitutional values, including patriotism, embracing a broader Kenyan identity of which we can be proud of. The Constitution promises us much, and sets out the institutional framework for achieving the national values.
President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga have in the president’s speech on promulgation day described the new Constitution as “an embodiment of our best hopes, aspiration, ideals and values for a peaceful and more prosperous nation”. They predict that the Constitution “will fundamentally transform our nation politically, economically and socially” and lead to “productive and dignified lives”. They drew attention to “the new ways of conducting public affairs”, saying, “This Constitution’s leadership code and values makes it clear that people who will present themselves for public or state offices will have to be individuals of integrity, willing to be held accountable by the people and the institutions and laws of our country....The leaders must guarantee that the Bill of Rights is enforced...”. They urged us to complete the journey of “our transformation” by “seizing the moment with courage because the birth of the Second Republic holds great promise for the Kenyan people”.
Seize the moment
While the people long for the new dawn of integrity and social justice, they feel powerless in the face of the ever present corruption, land grabbing, and divisive ethnicity, mostly with the support of the administration and the police. They long for integrity among public offices and justice from judges, as they see that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor, and no justice for themselves. There is widespread discontent with the present establishment. People feel that they have been betrayed on the new Constitution and notice that the goals of the Constitution are daily being violated, sidelined, crassly and blatantly, while politicians continue to invoke ethnicity, imperilling peace and harmony among the people. In all this the politicians seem unconcerned about the public reaction.
The people realise that the Constitution promises them much, but some do not feel empowered by it. But many others do sense that it is through their own agency, in co-operation with others, that the promise will be realised. So increasingly people are organising themselves into groups (professionals, women, youth, religious groups, numerous grassroots organisations) searching for a new social and political order. Focussed on the youth, we intend to work together with them and others searching for change to fulfil the agenda of the Constitution. In order to achieve our objectives, for ourselves and future generations, we will facilitate partnerships for pursuit of Constitutional goals, promote co-operation across ethnic divides, etc. use possibilities for people for participation, decision making; engage with the rural and urban poor; encourage awareness among people of the Constitution and their rights. In the absence of effective and stable political parties, social movements have the potential to influence political policies and developments. This is what we intend to do.
Thank-you and God Bless Kenya....