Kenyans troop to polling stations across the country for a crucial vote that will determine whether they gain a new constitutional order or whether it will be back to the drawing board.
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, it will not be an issue of winners and losers, but a situation where Kenya itself is the victor.
What is important is not just the mere outcome of the vote, but that Kenyans remains one — united, indivisible and committed to driving forward the reform agenda towards the creation of a stable, peaceful and prosperous nation.
The campaigns have been long and arduous. No doubt tempers became frayed and many unfortunate things were said in the heat of the moment.
That is the nature of campaigns.
But once the dust has settled, it will be time for sober reflection on the way forward. If ‘Yes’ wins, we have on authority of the Green leaders that they will move promptly to address the contentious issues to the satisfaction of all.
If the proposed constitution is voted out, we similarly have a pledge that the Red campaign will move to have the contentious issues resolved so that a revised draft can go to the people for another vote before the end of the year.
Lost in the campaign din may have been the fact that both sides agreed on many key issues. The only point of departure was whether the proposed constitution should be passed and then amendments made, or whether it should first be amended.
The referendum now is unstoppable, but immediately after the vote and irrespective of the outcome, leaders of both the Green and Red campaigns must be called upon to live up to their pledges.
Forum to reconcile the nation
The Church, which has been a key player in the campaigns, has already suggested that the vote be followed by a forum to reconcile the nation and seek a common ground on the way forward.
That very reasonable suggestion must be seized with both hands. The President and the Prime Minister should set the example by sending a clear message of peace, reconciliation and continuing dialogue.
They could also move to ensure that such a message is reinforced by the backing of the entire Cabinet. After the 2005 referendum, the President sacked Cabinet ministers who campaigned against the proposed constitution. The President and the Prime Minister need to think very hard whether that is the right thing to do for the country this time.
We already have in place a coalition made up of divergent interests brought together by the urgent need to hold the country together, and this is a principle that cannot be abandoned.
Parliament to pass amendments
We will not move forward if we fail to acknowledge that a new constitution is not an end in itself, but simply an important phase of the entire reform agenda.
Parliament will still have the difficult task of passing dozens of legislative amendments required to bring home the benefits of the new order. It will not be smooth if the nation is divided, if the Cabinet is divided, and if the Legislature itself is divided.
By the same token, if the new law is rejected, that will not be the end of the road, but another opportunity to resolve the contentious issues and bring it back for consideration. Again. Unity and common purpose across all levels will be paramount.
That is why we must appeal to the entire leadership — political, religious, community, civil society, labour, business and other groupings — to commit to continuing engagement with the national interest foremost in mind.
We acknowledge there will always be competing interests at play, but this is a moment of history, and history is not written by, nor does it treat well, those who wear blinkers that guide them on the path of narrow personal, sectional or ethnic interests, but by those who cast aside the tunnel vision.