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We all have a duty to promote unity and national cohesion

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We all have a duty to promote unity and national cohesion

June 17 th.

 

Be that as it may, Kenya has in the recent weeks witnessed a departure from these very foundations of good-citizenship by a gallery of contrary messaging from some of our citizenry. Our headlines have been awash with reported incidences of “hate speech” that culminated into the arrest and detention of some members of Parliament. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission among other agencies and leadership have strongly condemned and cautioned against such divisive rhetoric. For as the right of freedom of expression is given, so is the duty to promote unity and cohesion. 

Perhaps it is time to reflect on why the sacred words were placed in our preamble and how the Constitution is an antidote. Kenya`s history beckons to all of us on the need to stay indivisible especially from the sad tales of 2007-2008 post-election violence (PEV).  While the shadowy outcomes of the PEV are well known to most Kenyans, it is vital to suggest that it occasioned the birth of our Constitution in 2010.

We must also reminiscence on why unity and national cohesion is significant. While under one nation, without doubt, we are inter-dependent on several fronts: resources, responsibility over each other and self-determination. Further our micro and macroeconomic stability are at the highest with high political stability which signifies national cohesion/integration. This should give us the resolve to converge rather than to differentiate. 

Among many fundamental gains under the Constitution is the promotion of democratic and individual rights, institutional strengthening, and adoption of the principles and values of good governance. The likely outcome of this (such as having a strong judiciary) is the efficiency in decision-making processes relating to: access to justice, equitable development and distribution of resources, and non-discriminatory access to services. This is important for the prevention of conflict, elimination of bigotry and achievement of nationhood sense.

This draws a constant interplay between national cohesion and leadership. How our leaders react to problems, resolve crises, reward and punish followers is all relevant to peace and security. Kenyans may want to recall what Koffi Annan who was Chair of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities mediating Kenyan peace in 2008 anticipated. He so profoundly required leaders to be concerned about peace renewal by seeking to foster national cultures that are conducive to creativity, problem solving and inclusivity for all.

As we fast approach the next year`s general elections, we must walk in letter and spirit of the Constitution. This will be an opportunity for us to prove wrong the notion that Kenyans only recall their “divide” and tribe particularly only during election period. We will need to demonstrate that electoral competition is just but one dimension of our constitutional governance and not a cause to divide us. A paraphrase of the words of the former President Mwai Kibaki calls the occasion “Uchaguzi ni wa siku moja tu”. The import of this is that we need a country to live in after the vote.

Drums of “country first” should start beating again. Citizens who adopted and gave themselves the Constitution should alongside leadership drum this logic even beyond the electoral cycle. 

 

Written by Jacob Otachi 

The writer is a Leadership and Governance PhD candidate at JKUAT 

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