President Mwai Kibaki on Monday launched the national voter registration exercise in his Othaya Constituency where he also registered as a voter at Munaini Primary School.
Speaking during the launch at Othaya Approved School grounds, President Kibaki urged the civil society, the media and faith-based organisations to mobilise Kenyans to participate in the exercise which he termed as of high importance in the promotion of good governance and democracy.
The President said the exercise that kicks-off countrywide today marks an important milestone in the efforts to reform the country’s electoral system.
President Kibaki, therefore, encouraged Kenyans who qualify to vote to turn up in large numbers so as to register as voters so that they can participate in the referendum on the new Constitution later in the year.
“Remember that this is your constitutional right as a Kenyan. Do not wait for the last minute rush because that could deny you the democratic right to vote,” President Kibaki said.
The Head of State also directed the Provincial Administration and other Government agencies involved in the issuance of National Identity Cards to expedite their processes so that Kenyans who have come of age can be issued with voter’s cards.
President Kibaki emphasised that the timely completion of the national voter registration exercise is particularly important as it will enable the country to finalise the constitution making process on schedule.
The President, once again, underscored the need for compromise for the sake of the country as the Constitution making process enters the final leg.
He pointed out that already tremendous progress has been made in the Constitution making process, adding that once outstanding issues are resolved through the on-going consensus building process, the draft Constitution will be debated in Parliament and subsequently presented to members of the public through a referendum.
Said the President: “As all Kenyans are aware, we have sought for a new Constitution for the last twenty years. I am glad we are finally at the threshold of a new constitutional order that our people have desired for so long.”
Expressing confidence that the country will soon have a new Constitution, President Kibaki urged all Kenyans to hold the constitution making process with the seriousness it deserves so that a sound law that will adequately serve present and future generations can be realised.
In this regard, the President noted that the constitution making process will not be successfully achieved if Kenyans do not turn out in large numbers to vote in the referendum.
“I remind Kenyans that the Constitution will affect our lives as well as the lives of our children directly. It is, therefore, important that we are all fully aware what the new Constitution provides and make our views clearly known in the referendum,” the President said.
Noting that the national voter registration is being launched against the background of the challenges the country faced during and after the last general elections, President Kibaki said it was necessary to implement the necessary reforms to modernise the country’s electoral systems.
Towards this end, the President noted that the Interim Independent Electoral Commission was established as one of the reform commissions created under Agenda four of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act.
“As will be recalled, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission was established to help restore people’s confidence in the country’s electoral system,” the Head of State said.
He commended the Interim Independent Electoral Commission for the progress it has made towards achieving its mandate, noting that the commission has set up a secretariat and recruited 17 Regional Elections Coordinators and 210 Constituency Coordinators.
The Head of State also observed that the commission has committed to have a new Voter’s Register compiled and ready for inspection after thirty days.
The President said the Government fully appreciates the work of the Inerim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) and will also support the commission’s efforts in modernizing the country’s electoral process to be compliant with changing technologies including the development and expansion of Electronic Voter Registration that is currently being piloted in eighteen constituencies so that it can be rolled out to all constituencies in the country.
In this connection, President Kibaki encouraged the IIEC to cultivate partnerships and consensus building with all stakeholders for purposes of eliminating mistrust and creating mutual understanding.
The Head of State once again took the opportunity to commend the Interim Independent Electoral Commission for the successful by-elections conducted in Shinyalu and Bomachoge.
During the occasion President Kibaki asserted that voting enabled Kenyans to exercise self determination by electing to office individuals to run the affairs of the nation and asked all citizens who have attained 18 years of age to register as voters in order make their contribution to good governance.
Describing the exercise as of high importance in the promotion of good governance and democracy in the country, the Head of State urged Kenyans to take advantage of the duration allocated for registration, which he termed as adequate.
He thanked the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Mutula Kilonzo and the Chairman of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission, Ahmed Issack Hassan for the dedication they have demonstrated in implementing electoral reforms among other ongoing reforms aimed at promoting stability and good governance.
On his part the Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo assured Kenyans that enactment of the new constitution was firmly on course and declared that President Kibaki would go into history as the Head of State who ushered in a new constitutional dispensation in the country.
During the occasion the Minister appealed to Kenyans to disregard the overbearing media coverage over draft constitution that is creating unnecessary anxiety among citizens due to perceived political differences.
Mr Kilonzo said that comprehensive civic education would be mounted in all parts of the country once the Attorney General published the document.
He reiterated that the new voter registration exercise was intended to rid off outdated electoral practices susceptible to human errors as well as to restore credibility in the electoral process of the country after the annulment of the previous voters register.
Others who addressed the forum were Chairman, Interim Independent Electoral Commission Ahmed Issack Hassan and Central Provincial Commissioner Japhter Rugut.