Kenyan leader urges citizens to embrace peace

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NAIROBI, Oct 20, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) - By Daniel Ooko

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on Monday called on citizens to consider restitution and forgiveness as complementing truth and justice in order to give the nation a fresh start.

President Kibaki said while Kenyans desired justice for past injustices, they should keep in mind that although the truth will set the country free, justice must be coupled with forgiveness for reconciliation to take root.

"I urge you all to seize this moment and come together by fostering peace. Yes, let us all work together to give our children and youth a chance to have a better, peaceful and prosperous future," he told the public during national celebrations held in Nairobi.

Kibaki whose re-election sparked countrywide violence that left at least 1,000 people dead and 350,000 others displaced paid tribute to the country's freedom heroes for the sacrifices they made during the struggle for independence and their vision for the country and appealed to all Kenyans to forgive one another and live together peacefully.

He urged citizens to exercise every freedom and liberty they have with due recognition and observation of the responsibilities, boundaries and obligations that go with them.

"Your freedom ends where the freedoms of your fellow citizens begin. All societies are bound by rules and laws. Indeed, freedom is one side of a coin whose other side is responsibility," he said.

Noting that the utmost desire of the country's founding fathers was to see that all Kenyans lived in freedom and the country was at peace with itself, President Kibaki urged Kenyans never to lose sight of this cherished goal.

"And I am happy that today, we in Kenya are free to think as we wish, speak as we wish, associate as we wish and live and do business as we wish. However, we should always keep in mind that freedoms and liberties are not absolute -- not in Kenya or in any other country in the world," he said.

President Kibaki cautioned against the pursuit of freedom and liberty without respect for institutions, law and order, saying that is a dangerous path for any country.

He pointed out that eroding the stature and authority of established institutions, tarnishing their reputation and belittling those in authority does not augur well for the country's socio-economic and political development.

The President advised that if institutions are weak, they should be strengthened and if those managing them are not capable, they should be changed but the practice of tearing down institutions without due regard to what will fill the vacuum they leave must not be embraced.

"I have said these things because I have no doubt in my mind that the ultimate desire of all of us is to build a better Kenya. And to do so, we must learn from our past, strengthen our governance and civic institutions and choose to use freedom and liberty in a positive and productive manner," he said.

President Kibaki said his government will use the recommendations from the Kriegler Commission to strengthen the electoral system and those from the Waki Commission to build a stable, cohesive and integrated society whose institutions protect the freedom and liberty of every citizen wherever they chose to live or work.

Saying the grand coalition government together with the people of Kenya have the capacity and will to develop a political consensus on a win-win constitutional settlement, the President said there was no doubt that the findings of the two commissions will be reflected in the new Constitution.

"Indeed, I believe that this is an opportunity for the Grand Coalition Government to seal its place in our nation's history by providing future generations with the legacy of a sound and durable constitutional and legal framework," the President said.

President Kibaki said the government is developing innovative ways of mobilizing public and private financing for expanding the national infrastructure.

He said the huge investments the government is making in sectors such as energy, roads, housing, transport, education, health, agriculture, industry, ICT. and tourism are all geared towards boosting the country's economy and generating jobs for the youth.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka said through President Kibaki's able leadership Kenyans have proved to the world that they can resolve challenges facing them within a short time.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga urged politicians to preach peace and togetherness for the sake of the country's unity.

He said before parliamentarians break for Christmas this year, they should strive to pass the bill which will enable the country get a new constitution within the stipulated time. Odinga who called for thorough and urgent reforms in the country's governance systems. He added that although the Kriegler and Waki reports had made extensive recommendations on how to permanently end the cycle of violence and impunity, the findings just confirmed the shortcomings in the institutions.

"The commissions' findings are not new to us. They merely confirmed, in very painful, graphic detail, what we know happened and has been happening. We know where things have gone wrong," he said while acknowledging that implementing functional national institutions would not be easy.

Odinga also maintained that those responsible for the post election chaos would be held accountable and that reparation would be made.

"Kenyans will not stop demanding justice -- justice that will end decades of impunity, where powerful cliques have been at liberty to use the country as their plaything," he stressed.

He said while the country could no longer afford to postpone reforms like it had done for 45 years, and needed to focus on key issues such as constitutional review, human rights and on the equitable distribution of resources.

The PM said by carrying out all the mentioned reforms, Kenyans could help realize the dream of a society free of ignorance, poverty and disease and where equality and justice are upheld as envisaged by the country's forefathers. "We are still struggling today to realize that dream, and until we have done so, our struggle will not cease," he cautioned.