Raila Odinga confident of free and fair 2022 elections

ODM leader Raila Odinga receives a document from Mt Kenya Youth Summit on issues they want fulfilled should he win the presidency next year. [Samson Wire. Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga has said next year's elections will be free and fair.

Addressing youth from Mt Kenya at the University of Nairobi, yesterday, Raila stated that the handshake between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta was meant to ensure credible elections which are conducted in a peaceful manner.

“I can assure you that the coming election will be free and fair,” said the ODM leader.

After disputing the outcome of three elections marred with allegations of widespread irregularities and one of them nullified by the Supreme Court in 2017, Raila has for the first time, expressed confidence in an electoral system he has challenged in recent years.

In 2017, the ODM leader challenged President Kenyatta's victory at the Supreme court which nullified the presidential election and called for a repeat poll which Raila boycotted. The court took issue with how the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission conducted the election. The ODM leader also disputed the 2007 and 2013 presidential election outcomes.

The ODM leader reminisced the talks between him and the president that led to the historic handshake in March 2018.

After a 19-hour long meeting with Uhuru that engendered the handshake and described by Raila as “very difficult”, the ODM leader stated that part of the conversation revolved around creating a Kenya that would never again be divided because of elections.

“We agreed we would resolve these issues. We looked at where we came from and realised that in this country, which was created by the British, is a divided society,” recalled Raila.

The ODM leader travelled the paths of history to remind the audience that the country shed a lot of blood to be where it is and it is time that Kenya moves together as one unit.

Referred as the “chief listener” of the event, Raila listened to a long, clearly thought out and issue-based speeches outlining the issues bedevilling the youth of Mt Kenya. Representatives were drawn from Nyeri, Muranga, Nyandarua, Embu, Kiambu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Kirinyaga counties. The meeting was also attended by a team from Nakuru.

“How are you going to ensure that the violence that was experienced in 2007 does not happen again? How will you ensure we shall live in peace and harmony?" Posed Sam Kamau from Molo, Nakuru County.

“Never again will Kenyans fight after an election,” said Raila.

The ODM leader admitted that it is unfortunate that many of those displaced from their homes and land taken are still squatters. Raila said reconciliation of warring communities is not enough.

“We are not taking measures to do restitution so that the people who were chased away are allowed to go back and settle in their farms. We must face the facts in this country and deal with them,” said Raila.

Unlike political rallies witnessed in recent months across the country, yesterday’s meeting with a section of youth from Mt Kenya was a dialogue.

“There will be nothing for us without us,” echoed the youth in the hall.

Key among the issues cited by the youth was that should the ODM leader be the president come 2022, 70 per cent of the Cabinet should be youth, women and persons living with disabilities.

As part of his major revolutions in government, Raila promised to have four youth in Cabinet if he wins next year’s elections.

The ODM leader is yet to officially announce that he is in the race for the top seat in next year's general election.

“I strongly believe that we need to put into use the youth energy that we have in this country… I can say we will have more than four youth in Cabinet,” said the former premier.

He reminded the youth how during his tenure as Prime Minister, he held quarterly meeting with the business communities and the youth with intentions of knowing the problems affecting them.

“I do not need to be convinced. It is something I have already tried before and therefore it will be part of my policy,” stated Raila.

Raila also pledged to ensure that youth take centre stage in the country's diplomatic relations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because many Kenyans living abroad are youthful.

Following a unanimous declaration that Raila should run for president in the coming election, the youth present good tantalising promises from the premier ranging from the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule, a committed fight on corruption, and the institution of a Ministry of youth affair to strategically address issues faced by the largest demographic in the country.

According to the 2019 Population and Housing Census results, 75 per cent of the 47.6 million Kenyans is under the age of 35.

In 2007, Raila, then running on an ODM ticket disputed the election outcome that handed Mwai Kibaki victory on a PNU ticket. It would take the concerted efforts of the international community, with the late former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan brokering a deal between the two leaders in 2008 to form a coalition government that saw the ODM leader sworn-in as Prime Minister.

During the 2013 elections Raila teamed up with Kalonzo Musyoka as his running mate under the CORD alliance in an election that he lost and challenged at the Supreme Court. The court however upheld Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory who was running on a joint ticket with William Ruto as his deputy under the Jubilee coalition. The ODM leader would run again in 2017, with Kalonzo as his running mate once again, but this time under the NASA that also encompassed other parties.

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