Opposition chief Raila Odinga has dismissed claims his pact with President Uhuru Kenyatta is a ploy by dynasties to block Deputy President William Ruto from ascending to the presidency.
Asked about claims the 2022 presidential elections is a competition between dynasties - powerful families that have influenced the country’s politics since independence - against the ‘hustler nation’, a campaign strategy associated with Ruto, - Raila said the dynasty narrative was a “tired subject” that would not help the DP in his ambition.
Ruto allies have framed the 2022 contest into a race pitting dynasties and hustlers after Uhuru and Raila reconciliation. They claim there is a scheme by the two families – that have dominated the countries politics – to gang up against his bid.
In an exclusive interview with KTN’s Point Blank, the African Union Special envoy opened up about the behind-the-scene deliberations before their surprise briefing on the steps of Harambee House with Uhuru on March 9 last year, his proposals to change to a parliamentary system of governance, the need to stagger the country’s elections and why there was no going back about the push on a referendum.
He said the Odingas had sacrificed a lot for the country, highlighting his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s detention and struggle for Kenya’s independence.
The former PM said Jaramogi was from a poor background and struggled as a teacher before resigning to venture into business, and later joined the freedom fight.
“He became vice president for a very short period then went to the opposition. All these years he was taken to prison. And when he was later reelected MP, he served for one year only then died, and left Raila,” he said.
“Where does the dynasty come from? If anything else, the Odingas have given more than they have gotten from the society. It is a very tired subject,” said Raila.
He also defended his new-found friendship with Uhuru, saying if it was about dynasties, the President would have been crowned when his father died in 1978.
“Kenyatta died in office when Uhuru was about 17 years. If it was a dynasty, at that age he (Uhuru) would have been crowned as prince,” he said.
And for the first time, Raila disclosed what transpired before he agreed to work with Uhuru after a fiercely contested race in 2017 that saw the first presidential election in the history of Kenya nullified by the Supreme Court.
“The Building Bridges is a result of lengthy discussion between me and Uhuru Kenyatta. Both of us had been sworn in as presidents. However, when we discussed the matter, we said we cannot have two presidents in a country. But the only way for one of us to step down was to agree on how to bring changes to the country,” said Raila.
He added: “We asked ourselves what the issues are. We put them on the table and it was on that basis that we agreed I step aside on condition that we do all these things together,” said Raila.
Raila reiterated that the pact was not about 2022. He said without addressing issues around the last poll, Kenyans would feel no need to participate in another election.
“It is about changing Kenya because we said without addressing issues around the 2017 poll, there will be no 2022. Nobody or only a few people will go to the ballot in 2022 if there are no substantive changes to what happened in 2017,” he said.
He also backed the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission on its suggestion to stagger the country’s election.
Raila termed the electoral process, where voters are expected to elect six representatives in a single day, as “torture to semi-illiterate voters”.
“We need to revisit our electoral system. What we have been through is a torture to the electorate. Electing six people in one day is just too much to the people, particularly the semi-illiterate,” said Raila.
“We need to change this, the way Nigeria is doing where they have the senatorial, parliamentary and local government elections separately from the gubernatorial and presidential,” said Raila.
The ODM leader wants the country to change to a parliamentary system of governance with the President as the Head of State and a Prime Minister as the head of government.
The president, who would be elected directly, should serve a single seven-year term while the prime minister would be picked from the majority party in Parliament.
Raila has further proposed that some ministers be picked from among Members of Parliament.
“At Bomas, we came up with the hybrid system, very close to the French one, where you have a president elected by the people then a prime minister who is the leader of the majority party,” he said.
He dismissed opponents of the clamour for constitutional change, saying no constitution is perfect.
“The American constitution was amended within months of its promulgation. It is time to revisit our Constitution to see what works and what does not work,” Raila said.
He further rubbished claims the war against corruption was being weaponised to fight Ruto politically, stating that the purge was not targeting an individual.
“Our war on corruption does not target any particular individual. It is a war that aims at reducing the impact of the vice. We are basically looking at the entire society. It has become untenable,” said Raila.
He added: “It does not matter who is involved. We should not try to ethnicise or regionalise it and say so and so is targeted. Some of these arguments are tired arguments that have been tried elsewhere.”
“We have reached a stage where corruption cannot allow for further development. There is a level of corruption which still allows for growth, but in our case, nothing is left.”
In his new book – ‘Treason: The Case Against Tyrants and Renegades’, exiled lawyer Miguna Miguna claimed there was a scheme to ‘weaponise’ the war against corruption, ensnare Ruto and his close allies in Government, before ultimately bundling him out as Uhuru’s deputy.
Ruto’s camp has claimed the war is not genuine, citing sweeping arrests in perceived DP-leaning ministries — where top officials were arrested at Kenya Pipeline, Kenya Power and the National Cereals and Produce Board and charged with corruption.