Kenya celebrates 53 years of self-rule amid calls for unity

Nakuru, Kenya, June 2: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday led the nation in marking 53 years of internal self-rule amid calls for peace and unity.

The celebrations of the Madaraka Day which were marked across the country saw Kenyatta urge political leaders at all levels to avoid utterances that may undermine peace and cohesiveness in the country.

The celebrations were held in Nakuru, about 180km northwest of the capital Nairobi.

The president said Kenyans should strive to build a better country at all times, saying irresponsible talk will only cause irreparable damage to the socio-economic development.

“The scars of 2007 remind us of the shame of political competition without limits or wisdom. But our patriotism prevailed; and today, we take pride as a nation in showing ourselves and to the world that we have brought good out of troubled times,” he said in reference to the post election violence in which over 1,200 people were killed and more tan 600,000 others displaced.

He called on leaders to respect all the institutions established in the Constitution as far as the management and running of the country’s affairs was concerned.

He said it is paramount that leaders and Kenyans in general stick to the Constitution while airing their grievances on any given issue.

Ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga has been leading weekly protests to press for reforms in the country’s electoral body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), ahead of the 2017 general elections.

The opposition party-Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) which lost the 2013 election accuses the electoral commissioners of bias and lack of independence and insists that the same officials should not be allowed to preside over the 2017 general election.

The ruling Jubilee party defends the officials thus leading to protests. The government has maintained that the reforms or changes should be pursued within the confines of the constitution.

Speaking at the celebrations of the Madaraka Day, President Kenyatta wondered why leaders who played a key role in making the Constitution were now turning against it.

“It is particularly saddening that those who were at the front in supporting the enactment of the Constitution are now turning against the same laws. We must be a nation that respects and follows the rule of law,” he said.

Deputy President William Ruto asked opposition leaders to respect the recent ruling by the courts that barred them from engaging in street demonstrations over issues pertaining to IEBC.

Ruto said it was unfair for the opposition to continue pressing for the removal of IEBC commissioners through unconstitutional means.

Meanwhile, Kenyatta has announced that the government will waive duty on dates during the Holy month of Ramadhan to help the Muslim community to fulfil religious obligations.

He directed the State Department for Special Programs to ensure that vulnerable families are supported with foods during the Ramadhan period.

Kenyatta affirmed his commitment to the success of devolution, saying the decision to share celebrations of the country’s nationhood among the counties is part of his administration’s desire to include every Kenyan, in word and in deed.

“Our journey since the first Madaraka day has been growing political and administrative maturity. Today, we have constitutionally devolved the responsibilities of governance to 47 counties,”Kenyatta said.