Raila says handshake is about uniting the country

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, accompanied by Governors, Josphat Nanok (Turkana-left), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) and his Uasin Gishu counterpart Jackson Mandago (right) during Tobong'u Lore Cultural Festival event at Ekalees in Turkana Central. [Peter Ochieng/Standard]
Opposition leader Raila Odinga has said the handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta should not be portrayed as a scheme to help him clinch power in 2022.

Raila said he agreed to work with Uhuru to address fundamental issues affecting the country.

“Some people have been saying I want to succeed President Kenyatta, which is a lie because the basis of the handshake was to address the issues that informed the formation of Building Bridges Initiative (BBI),” he said.

Speaking to KTN on the sidelines of the just-concluded Turkana cultural festival, Tobong’u Lore, in Lodwar, Raila said he has not announced his presidential bid.

“I have not declared if I will contest for the presidency. I am currently focusing on the unity of Kenyans through the BBI,” he said.

The ODM leader said BBI was a sure way to heal Kenyans since it tends to address challenges the country has faced in the past through a consultative forum.

“The BBI team has been traversing the country collecting views on how best we can address the long-standing issues affecting Kenyans. The team will draw its recommendations, which will be presented to Kenyans for approval before a referendum is conducted,” said Raila.

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He added, “The journey to realisation of a new Constitution was long and challenging. But since we now enjoy a new constitutional dispensation, we need it amended to ensure the best interests of Kenyans.”

Bill dismissed

Raila dismissed the Punguza Mizigo Bill as unpopular and impractical since there was no public participation before it was drafted.

“BBI is the way to Kenyans' prosperity and not the Punguza Mizigo Bill. One cannot claim to want to change the Constitution without the input of citizens,” he said.

Raila poked holes in the Punguza Mizigo Bill, terming it a sham. “Are those alleged to have appended their signatures on the Punguza Mizigo Bill known?” he posed.

He, however, said Kenyans cannot be subjected to two referendums at a go because it is costly and they are ready for dialogue with proponents of Punguza Mizigo to see if they can harmonise it with BBI.

Concerning his role as AU infrastructure envoy, he said he is working with African heads of State to ensure Trans-African highways are opened to ease movement of people across the continent.

“Africa should take its place in the world as an economic hub. The heads of State of respective countries have an obligation under the Presidential Infrastructure Initiative to ensure success of projects is fast-tracked in liaison with the AU,” he said.

Raila added that apart from road networks, rail transport and oil pipelines will be enhanced across the countries.

“Plans are underway for construction of an oil pipeline from Congo through Juba (South Sudan) to Lodwar in Kenya then Lamu oil refinery. These are plans I am overseeing currently,” he said.

The leader said he has since visited Congo, Chad, Senegal, South Africa, Ghana among other countries over infrastructural development, where investors to fund the projects are in agreement.

“In all these projects Kenya will immensely benefit and will offer an opportunity to our products to be transported easier across Africa and overseas besides enhancing cross-border trade. Ultimately, we will realise the development we have envisaged for long,” he said.

Raila said poor infrastructure and poverty are to blame for conflict in some African states and addressing them would spur economic growth.

“Ministers should put in place systems that will end hostilities among nations. The Government should pump in more resources to ensure development in such regions is realised,” he said.

The Opposition leader said he has held dialogue with pastoral communities with an aim of ending hostilities caused by cattle rustling.

Socio-economic integration

“I have held meetings with leaders of communities from pastoral regions in a bid to understand the conflict and how to end it. I am happy that soon we will end cattle rustling in Kenya,” he said.

Concerning culture for socio-economic integration, Raila said communities should be encouraged to hold such festivals since they enhance peace and cohesion.

“Mwacha mila in mtumwa (he who abandons his culture is a slave); as Africans we have different cultures and we should embrace what impacts us positively and shun what is pulling us back,” he said.

Raila lauded Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok for initiating the cultural festival, saying the region once dreaded for menacing bandits was now at peace. “The festival has brought harmony among different communities.

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Bulding Bridges InitiativeBBIOpposition leader Raila OdingaPresident Uhuru Kenyatta