It’s a fresh start on all fronts, says Ruto

Friday August 27 2010

Higher Education Minister William Ruto (centre) during the ceremony to mark the promulgation of the new constitution at Uhuru Park. PHOTO /  HEZRON NJOROGE

Higher Education Minister William Ruto (centre) during the ceremony to mark the promulgation of the new constitution at Uhuru Park. PHOTO / HEZRON NJOROGE 

By Benjamin Muindi [email protected]

Higher Education minister William Ruto has called for unity as the country implements the new Constitution.

Mr Ruto said the new phase had no room for the divisive ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps that charecterised the referendum campaigns.

“Majority of the people had spoken during the referendum and it is now time to move on as one united country,” he said after President Kibaki proclaimed the new law.

Mr Ruto was the de facto leader of the ‘No’ camp that campaigned against the new Constitution. The group comprised politicians and Church leaders who wanted the referendum delayed for issues they considered contentious to be amended.

They were opposed to the inclusion of the kadhi courts, the abortion clause and the provisions on land, among other issues.

But the minister’s faction was trounced in the referendum as the majority of Kenyans approved the Constitution promulgated on Friday.

His party, Orange Democratic Movement, however did not nominate him to the parliamentary committee charged with overseeing the implementation of the new Constitution. Other key ‘No’ campaigners like Cabinet ministers Samuel Poghisio and Naomi Shaban were also locked out of the committee.

Former President Moi, who attended the promulgation ceremony, said he had no regrets for opposing the new law. He said he campaigned against it for the sake of national unity.

He reiterated that his stand on the contentious issues had not changed.

“Majority of the people in the Rift Valley and churches voted against the draft and their concerns should not be ignored.”

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has pledged to support Kenya in the implementation of the new Constitution.

British deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said his government was committed to supporting the reform process.

In a congratulatory message to Kenyans, Mr Clegg noted that the achievement of the new Constitution was a significant milestone and a proud time for the wananchi.

“On behalf of the British people and government, I warmly congratulate Kenya on the promulgation of a new Constitution.

“I commend the leadership shown by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, but also the many other Kenyans who have contributed over the years towards this historic moment.”

Mr Clegg welcomed the renewed sense of confidence inspired by the new law.  

“Alongside progress on other reforms set out in the National Accord, implementation in the spirit of its founding principles will help Kenya achieve its Vision 2030.”

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan commended President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga for giving Kenyans a new constitution that had eluded the country for two decades.

Mr Annan, who brokered the peace deal in 2008, described the country’s attainment of the new constitution as a “great achievement” but warned the country not to sit on its laurels.

“A lot of work was still needed... the most important task now lies in its implementation,” he said outside Serena Hotel.

“The two leaders (President Kibaki and PM) have made Kenya and Africa proud.”

In Narok, a former senator who attended the first and second Lancaster House conferences shed tears of joy yesterday as he recounted the negotiations that led to independence.

Mr Philip ole Lemein, 85, said Kenyans’ freedom had been short-lived due to poor governance.

Mr Lemein spoke during the promulgation celebrations at Narok Stadium. He said he was excited about the return of the Senate. He said the institution was an important and powerful organ that would re-engineer the management of political affairs.

“The fight to liberate Kenya began before independence and it has come to fruition today,” said Mr Lemein, who has been leading a quiet life at his Narok farm.

“It is as if I have seen independence twice. I am honoured to be alive at this time,” he said to standing ovation from the crowd.

Mau Mau War Veterans Association Narok branch secretary Karaiya Ngare said the Constitution should recognise them for the liberation the country.

The South Rift Regional Commissioner, Mr Naftali Mung’athia, who presided over the ceremony, and Narok North district commissioner Godfrey Kigochi, urged the communities in the area to co-exist peacefully to boost development.

He assured the residents that no land would be taken from them and urged them to cooperate with government officials to boost development in all sectors in the region so as to achieve Vision 2030.