President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday gave a tough warning against possible election violence.
He told politicians to settle poll-related grievances through the courts instead of inciting supporters to cause chaos.
Addressing the last Jamhuri Day celebrations of his current term, eight months to the General Election, the President also warned foreign governments against interfering in local politics. He said Kenyans should be allowed to make independent decisions on who should lead them.
“In the United States, following the last election, much has been said about potential foreign interference with the electoral process. We are also going into elections next year. There is already money coming into Kenya from abroad in the guise of supporting good governance or civic education.
“However, its true intention is to influence our electoral choices,” he said in his speech at Nyayo National Stadium. The event was televised while the President’s speech was also read in all the county headquarters.
The President said Kenyans should not forget what happened in 2007-2008 after political differences escalated into ethnic hatred, leading to post-election violence in which 1,133 people were killed and another 650,000 displaced from their homes.
The violence led the International Criminal Court to open charges against six Kenyans, including President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, who were serving as deputy prime minister and Cabinet minister, respectively, at the time.
On Monday, the President made it clear that Kenya would be rethinking its relationship with the court in The Hague.
“I do not have to remind you what disunity looks like,” President Kenyatta said. “We know all too well what happened the last time we failed to treat each other as one family. So I will close by asking every Kenyan one single thing: in 2017, I ask you to be your brother’s keeper.”
On ICC, the President said: “Our experience at the ICC demonstrated a glaring lack of impartiality in this institution. We have started to see many more nations openly recognising that the ICC is not impartial. Some have withdrawn. Others have considered that step. Twice, our Parliament has passed motions to withdraw.
“We have sought the changes that will align the ICC to respect for national sovereignty. Those changes have not been forthcoming. We will, therefore, need to give serious thought to our membership.
“The ICC is only one instrument in seeking to shape the choices of free people.”
Even as he spoke, in at least seven counties, the supporters of rival political leaders clashed, in some instances violently, an indication of what 2017 could look like unless the violence is checked.
The most violent clash was in Meru, where Governor Peter Munya’s supporters and those of Senator Kiraitu Murungi clashed openly. Confrontations were also reported in Mombasa, Homa Bay, Siaya, Kisii, Migori and Garissa.
President Kenyatta said that even when people differ politically, violence should not be the only way to solve problems. He particularly challenged the youth not to be used by political leaders to cause mayhem.
The President said the future of Kenya belongs to the youth and it is the responsibility of all leaders to prepare them to be the new heroes.
Said President Kenyatta: “We will disagree robustly because we are a democracy. But that disagreement will have limits. We will not fight.
“We know that no family ever sees things all exactly the same way. But even when we disagree at home, we don’t burn the house down. Fellow Kenyans that is the story of next year.”
Even as he asked voters to re-elect him, he challenged his opponents to accept the results and pledged that he too will respect the outcome if he is defeated.
“We will either accept the results, or challenge them following the legal means laid down for that purpose. Those who win will use their offices to serve in humility,” he said.
The President also enumerated the achievements of the Jubilee administration, which took power in 2013.
He said the government had made huge investments in education where it has ensured every public primary school has electricity. He said the Government has worked hard to reform the education system and to preserve the integrity of national examinations.
He said investments in technical education had also been increased to form the foundation for industrialisation.
“The objective of all these efforts is to create a sufficient number of jobs for the young people we have educated,” he said.
He said efforts to industrialise the country were in top gear and that a motor vehicle assembly plant in Thika is expected to produce the first Volkswagen car to be assembled in Kenya. This, he said, is expected at the end of December.
“Plants that had once lain dormant have been refurbished. For example, the first phase of the revival of Panpaper is due for commissioning. And by the time we meet again to celebrate Jamhuri, the revival of Rivatex will be complete.”
On digital learning, President Kenyatta said about 80,000 teachers have been trained and digital content finalised. By next year, every child from Standard One to Three will have access to the digital devices, bringing digital learning to every corner of the republic.