AN APPEAL TO THE CITIZENS OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA: It is your patriotic civic duty to register to vote – by Jayne and Mwalimu Mati
Fellow Citizens of Kenya,
We write to appeal to you, our brothers and sisters, to register to vote for the new proposed Constitution of Kenya at the referendum and for the leaders of your choice at the next general election.
We, like most of you, were born into an independent Kenya and into a constitution that states that Kenya is a democracy, but sadly, we have lived under bad governance and corruption for all our lives.
We write also as parents of two children because we believe that it is our duty as responsible citizens to encourage fellow Kenyans to foster a democratic environment that will create opportunities for our children and all the children of Kenya.
Every patriotic Kenyan citizen shares the responsibility for civic awareness, and civic duty. This is not the work of the media, faith groups, political parties or non-governmental organizations alone. Every citizen shares the responsibility of working together to foster democracy for the good of our country. At all times citizens must act in the interest of fellow Citizens, because by doing so, we guarantee our own individual and collective interests. Democracy involves providing opportunities for all citizens without discrimination, which also means making decisions for our children who cannot vote until they attain the legal age of 18 years. We have a Constitutional and moral obligation to each other as citizens to make the best decisions on behalf of those who are young Kenyans below the age of 18 years. Every Kenyan Citizen over the age of 18 years (eligible to vote) must register to vote for the new proposed Constitution of Kenya at the referendum and for the leaders of their choice at the next general election. And every Citizen must encourage their fellow citizens starting at home and at work to do the same.
Your Vote is your democratic and Constitutional right. Our votes allow us as citizens to do certain things or make sure that certain things are done for the benefit of all. It is only with your vote, that you can ensure that we have a “Constitution and government of the Kenyan people, by the Kenyan people, for the Kenyan people.” As Citizens of Kenya, we must play an informed role in the governance of our country. We must empower ourselves by registering to vote, because, it is only through the ballot, that we will make effective decisions about how and who we choose to govern on our behalf. It is only through the ballot that we will get a new Constitution for our country. It is only through the ballot that we will get a lawfully elected Government that will carry out the will of the Kenyan people.
As Citizens of Kenya, we all live together in our country. We therefore need to agree on how to run the affairs of our country. This agreement on how to run our country takes the form of a Constitution of Kenya. This agreement – a set of rules, agreed on by us as citizens binds all persons and is the supreme Law of the Republic. Our current Constitution says that all sovereign power in Kenya belongs to the Citizens of Kenya, and that we exercise this power through the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya. The current Constitution declares the Rights of the Individual citizen and makes the state responsible for guaranteeing those rights. But our current Constitution needs improvement to undo decades of amendments that weakened our democracy and created opportunities to destroy protective mechanisms and checks and balances. Past Presidents and Parliaments did this.
We are soon to vote on a new set of rules in the proposed new constitution – how we as citizens want to live with each other and how we want to exercise our sovereign power. Let us make that decision together, as responsible Kenyans who love our country. Voting for the proposed new constitution can be the beginning of a new true democratic era, where we vote and also get involved. Where we say that from now, we, as citizens will share the job of governing our country.
The Proposed new Constitution lays a better foundation for good governance than the current one, which since 1964 has been amended to the benefit of the Presidents of Kenya and their cohorts. The Proposed new Constitution declares that Kenya is a Sovereign Republic which is founded on Principles of Good Governance through multi party democracy, participatory governance, transparency and accountability, separation and devolution of powers, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the Rule of Law. This is how we as citizens of Kenya want to run our country.
The Proposed new Constitution recognizes that all Kenyans are born equal. That Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of Kenyans Citizens are given by God, and not by the State. That Kenyans have Human Rights because Kenyans are human beings. That protection of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms in the Constitution is because these rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away from us by anyone. And that Kenyans who occupy positions of power are subject to controls, checks and balances to ensure that they do not abuse their fellow citizens’ rights, as has been the case to date. We as Kenyan Citizens must be ready to defend these rights at any cost.
The Proposed new Constitution in our opinion, strives to achieve the goals of a democratic society; the greatest possible freedom for all Kenyans; A just society; the same rules for all Kenyans; Equality before the law; Respect for the rule of law; and Equal opportunities for all Kenyans.
The Proposed new Constitution has addressed the equitable sharing, distribution, and allocation of public resources for development among all citizens. Kenyan citizens can get rich legally. Kenyans will have the right to: Fair and favourable conditions of work; Equal pay for work of equal value; the right to form and belong to a trade union; and the right to enjoy social security. The Proposed new Constitution has constitutionalised proper fiscal management of public funds and facilitates punishment of those who steal public funds. It deals with corruption firmly.
The Proposed new Constitution has effectively dealt with checks and balances by providing for independent arms of Government and in particular has dealt extensively with an independent Judiciary.
The Proposed new Constitution guarantees in an elaborate enhanced Bill of Fundamental Rights; the right to life, the right to personal freedom, Protection against slavery and forced labour, Protection from inhuman treatment, Protection from property being taken away illegally, Protection against an illegal search or entry, the right to the protection of the law, Freedom of conscience, Freedom of expression, Freedom of association and assembly, Freedom of movement, Freedom from discrimination, the right to participate in political activity without restriction, the right to hold your own views and talk about what you think and believe, the right to relate and socialize, and to move freely without obstruction. It also guarantees political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Over the 20 or more years that Kenyans have fought and even died trying to get a new Constitution, the views of millions of Kenyans have been collected. The Constitution of Kenya Review Commission reported these views in 2002. Summarized Kenyans said:
1. Give us the chance to live a decent life: with our fundamental needs of food, water, clothing, shelter, security and basic education met by our own efforts and the assistance of government.
2. We want a fair system of access to land for the future and justice for the wrongs of the past
3. Let us have more control over the decisions that affect our lives, bring government closer to us – and let us understand better the decisions we can’t make ourselves but which affect us deeply
4. We don’t want power concentrated in the hands of one person
5. We want our MPs to work hard, respect us and our views – and we want the power to kick them out if they don’t
6. We want to be able to choose leaders who have qualities of intelligence, integrity and sensitivity that make them worthy to lead us.
7. We want an end to corruption
8. We want police who respect citizens – so they can be respected by them
9. We want women to have equal rights and gender equity
10. We want children to have a future worth looking forward to – including orphans and street children
11. We want respect and decent treatment for the disabled.
12. We want all communities to be respected and free to observe their cultures and beliefs
13. We assert our rights to hold all sections of our government accountable – and we want honest and accessible institutions to ensure this accountability
It is our humble opinion that the Proposed new Constitution has captured our views and that we must therefore vote in large numbers at the referendum to ensure that it is enacted so that we can secure a brighter future for our children. We must also remember that even with the passing of a new constitution, the rules will bind us all. That no one is above the law; this basically means that all Kenyans are equal before the law and are subject to it. Any Kenyan who makes choices has to make them according to the say so of the law. The new Constitution will only make a difference in our lives if we adhere to the rule of law.
To ensure that the rule of law is respected in Kenya is our civic duty; and the responsibility ultimately lies with the citizens of Kenya. We write to you as fellow patriotic Kenyan citizens who love our country.
Jayne & Mwalimu Mati
Mars Group Kenya