Pomp and colour characterised the launch of the Tuvuke Initiative in Kenya at a time when the country is implementing the new constitution and preparing for election under a fresh dispensation.
The Tuvuke Launch aired live by the leading media house in Kenya was attended by over 200 invited guests and watched by millions of Kenyans in their homes.
The Initiative, whose aim is to foster a culture of peace among Kenyans by denouncing all forms of violence and advocating for acceptance and tolerance, is funded by the Ford Foundation to the tune of US$ 2 million. It will involve 17 key stakeholders both at community and national level, to ensure there is a peaceful General Election in Kenya.
In his remarks, the Kenyan Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal said that the thought of Ford Foundation in supporting an initiative to work around peace in Kenya during the electoral process started when he was still at the Foundation.
"When this great initiative was thought through and we got our President Ubinas to allocate some funds as Ford Foundation's contribution to the investments being made locally and externally to guarantee peaceful, free and fair elections in Kenya," said Dr Mutunga.
He added that the Foundation's investment since the late 1950s has been pegged to contributing to the fulfilment of the promise of democracy in EA. "And that TUVUKE reflects a continuation of this noble commitment to our democratic development."
Dr Mutunga noted how the vision and the thought of TUVUKE brings to his mind joys experienced when a person is released from prison, discharged from hospital upon complete recovery, paying rent at the beginning of the month, giving birth, passing an examination, or getting married.
"Of course the Bible records a great TUVUKE at the Red Sea which in our case invites the question TUVUKE...TWENDE WAPI (meaning we cross to where)," posed Dr Mutunga.
He reminded Kenyans that violence can destroy this nation and that the Preamble of the Constitution of Kenya states that we are PROUD of our ethnic, cultural and religious diversity and (are) determined to live in peace and unity as one indivisible sovereign nation. "TUVUKE is a patriotic project to fulfil this constitutional vision".
As the Chief Justice, Dr Mutunga said that the Judiciary is going to synergize the Tuvuke project and give clear messages on obeying the constitution and the law on peaceful, free and fair elections. "As we implement our respective projects let us all remember that we get to the Canaan of our democratic development by implementing our progressive constitution," he said.
Maurice Makoloo the Regional Representative of Ford Foundation Office of Eastern Africa lauded the Initiative as the most important step that Kenya is making in her long trek to democracy.
Giving the history of Ford Foundation's work in the world and also within Eastern Africa, he said that the Foundation started working in the region in 1962 and that the launch of the Tuvuke Initiative is being done at a time when Ford is celebrating its 50th years of productive work in the region.
"As of our celebrations and a further commitment to Kenya, the Foundation agreed to support this special initiative, the Tuvuke Initiative. It is our firm belief that the US$ 2million grant on peaceful elections that is led by these 17 civil society organisations, will add the impetus necessary to advance a vision of democracy, peace and civic engagement in this country and the broader region," said Makoloo.
He added that for the past 50 years, the Foundation has invested nearly US$ 500 million in the region, helping to lay a foundation for democracy by supporting the growth of civil society, advancing women's rights, developing leaders in key sectors and strengthening government. He said that today the Foundation provided some US$ 12 million each year to support Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian institutions working for a freer, fairer and more prosperous East Africa.
Speaking at the same function, Dr Jennifer Riria, the Chair of the Tuvuke Secretariat said that even though there are other various parallel peace initiatives that are on-going in the country on peace, the Tuvuke Initiative whose slogan is a Better Kenya for All will work with them to achieve a bigger impact and ensure that Kenyans achieve a peaceful election.
She told the audience that a mechanism is already in place on how to partner with UWIANO platform under the Tuvuke component Five on Monitoring and disseminating of conflict alerts for Early warning and response as well as establishment of Peace Champions.
We are also working with other initiative to ensure the youth and the women participate in the electoral process in a peaceful manner.
To have a greater impact among the public, Dr Riria said that the Initiative is working with the religious organisations to engage and cultivate men and religious leaders as allies and partners in the struggle for women's rights and gender equality as enshrined in the constitution.
"But what makes Tuvuke stand apart is the fact that it aims to determine priorities for the strategic engagement of civil society for an election outcome that serves the interests of the citizens, sustains progress with constitutional reforms and promotes a new democracy in Kenya, "she said. Adding that, "The Tuvuke Initiative is working with every Kenyan with a hope of making Kenyans to re-think their role in building a peaceful."