Early campaigns meant to fight BBI, Raila says

Opposition leader Raila Odinga (left) with Siaya Senator James Orengo (centre) and Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo during the burial of former Gem MP Joe Donde's mother in Siaya on Saturday. [Collins Oduor, Standard]
Premature 2022 presidential campaigns are designed to undermine the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and scuttle envisaged constitutional reforms, Opposition chief Raila Odinga has said.

Mr Raila denounced reports that he had declared his candidature for the presidency in an election in which he would face off with Deputy President William Ruto. He described the reports as an attempt to discredit the work of the BBI by its critics -who are desperate to turn the unity initiative into a 2022 political campaign.

He said he agreed with President Uhuru Kenyatta to establish the BBI with its nine-point agenda geared towards uniting the country and ending politics of exclusion, among others, an agenda the ODM party leader described as most urgent and not an election that is three years away.  

Priority areas

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Raila said he and President Kenyatta have been clear that it is not yet time for politicking, and the focus should be on working for the people on the Big Four development priority areas and uniting the country.

“My statement was all about reorganising the party and it had nothing to do with Raila Odinga,” he said, stressing ODM party reorganisation is an ongoing implementation of party resolutions made during a meeting in Nakuru.

“The authors of the story are desperate to turn it into a 2022 campaign and the country into a campaign mode. My statement was all about re-organising the party,” said Raila.

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“I do not believe that three years to an election, who is running, who is ahead, who is behind, who is going to win, what are the odds and who will lose is the priority the Press should force Kenyans to occupy themselves with,” said Raila.

Siaya Senator James Orengo on Saturday dismissed claims that Raila had declared he would contest in 2022.

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“There are some people hell-bent on talking about 2022 politics and would want to muddy the waters by dragging in anyone. Raila talked about party elections next year and I dare anyone to produce a clip or audio stating otherwise,” said Mr Orengo.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed (Suna East) said the report  is malicious, diversionary and a scheme to destabilise the country and fight the handshake.

Mr Junet charged that the report is aimed at distracting people from focusing on national cohesion and addressing the serious issues facing the nation.

“This report is malicious and diversionary and it is a scheme to destabilise and fight the handshake. This seems to fit into the plan of the DP, who wants an election “to be held even now” but it is clear the elections are three years away,” he said.

Raila said he has not entered any race and is not aware of any race as reported in a section of the dailies.

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“I am not in a presidential race and I have not declared any interest in (any seat). I am disappointed by the deliberate twisting of calls to ODM to prepare for grassroots elections to mean I am in the presidential race. It’s way too early,” Raila said through his spokesperson Dennis Onyango.

Meticulous efforts

He went on: “It undermines meticulous efforts to help the country address delicate issues facing it, like violent elections every five years, runaway corruption, troubles in the counties, reforms to education and endangered national values.”

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said that at no time did Raila discuss the 2022 race.

Mr Sifuna, in a statement, clarified that the only matter Raila touched on was the party’s grassroots elections scheduled for next year, in accordance with the party constitution.

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“The ODM party wishes to alert the public to the false and erroneous reporting, to the effect that Raila has declared his candidature for the 2022 presidential race. At no time during his speech at the burial of the late mama Eva Donde did Raila discuss the 2022 election,” he said.

Sifuna maintained that Raila remains committed to partnering with the President in building a lasting legacy, and that he is opposed to any discussions revolving around the 2022 elections given that there is a serving President whose term he respects.

“It is clear there are elements within the media keen on peddling falsehoods with the intention of stoking public disaffection with initiatives by Raila and President Kenyatta. It is these forces who insist on imputing sinister motives on the part of the two leaders in their rapprochement following the acrimonious elections of 2017,” he said.

Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka also waded into the debate, saying it is premature to talk about 2022 politics.

“There is no election now. Kenyans are busy discussing the BBI and the issues presented to it. It is premature to talk about 2022 elections,” said Kalonzo.

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Elections 2022Raila OdingaBuilding Bridges Initiative