The state funeral of the late Field Marshal Mukami Kimathi in Njabini, Nyandarua county, on Saturday, saw President William Ruto and Raila Odinga share the podium.
The two leaders who have been at loggerheads since the outcome of the August 9, 2022 presidential election results, shook hands at the event also attended by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.
When the opportunity to address the mourners came, the leaders tore into each other.
Raila who was invited to speak by Nyandarua Governor Kiarie Badilisha defended the Azimio demonstrations saying it was a way of defending Kenyans against the government and its excesses.
“Kenyans must remain united. We must speak truth to power. Do not be intimidated. Azimio members are not mad,” he said.
The Azimio leader declared that he will not be cowed by President Ruto’s criticism of the opposition.
“I have worked with Ruto for a long time. I know him very well. When he makes noise I just look. I know he will cool down,” said Raila in reference to Ruto’s past responses to protests.
Raila said that although a the bipartisan talks committee was addressing their grievances, he would not stopping the truth to power.
“Even with all that we have done, we have to speak the truth. The cost of living is very high. Stop adding more taxes on these people. The donkey is tired but those around you will not tell you,” he said.
The Azimio leader defended his decision to go to the streets saying it is an idea borrowed from other similar courses by people who became national heroes like Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
“There are two types of violence. There is oppressive violence that the state uses against the people. And then there is depressive violence which people use against oppression. The two are not the same,” said Raila.
He further recounted that similar resistance was employed by Kenya’s freedom fighters who would not have realized the success enjoyed by current generations if they would have kept silent.
“In our country, Mau Mau used violence to liberate Kenya. We must create a lasting system to ensure people are not oppressed. We must stop seeing each other as enemies,” said Raila.
The former premier added that there was no tribalism in the fight for independence and that Kenyans should resist any attempts to divide them warning that even in the struggle, the freedom fighters encountered sellouts.
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"Mr President if you wish, allow these men to show us where Kimathi was buried. We get the remains. That is their request."
In response, President Ruto told off Raila saying that their style of politics was different and that neither would beat the other in their unique strengths. “Raila said he knows me well, that I will make noise then I will cool down. I also know him. I beat him even with President Uhuru’s support. I know where his maandamano will end,” he said.
Reduced external borrowing
The President went on to say that Raila can beat him on street protests but not in economics adding that he had a realistic plan to move the country forward and lower the high cost of living.
“I am a good student of Mwai Kibaki. When he took the country, the tax revenue was Sh220 billion. But with a plan and brains, when he was leaving, taxes were at almost a trillion. Uhuru came and made it Sh2 trillion but he added a lot of debt. I want to make it Sh2.8 trillion by the end of this year,” he said.
The President further announced that in line with concerns raised by Kenyans, he had identified key areas of reducing or waiving taxes to make life easier in the country.
“We have identified 20 areas where we have reduced taxes in our next budget to alleviate the heavy burden on Kenyans. This year, I have reduced external borrowing by over Sh500 billion,” said Ruto.
He accused Raila of working with former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration on policies that plunged the country into economic chaos.
“When I was elected, the cost of living was even higher. The mistake you did, instead of helping farmers you helped millers. I did the reverse. That is where you went wrong. I agree with you but it is your fault. Allow me to correct your mess,” said Ruto.
DP Gachagua welcomed Raila’s statement that they must speak truth to power saying that he should also expect to be told the truth where they go off the track.
“Raila welcome to the club of truthful men. The truth is money was looted and diverted to Azimio and BBI. The truth is that Ruto is the president. The truth is the next election is in 2027. That is the time to sort out those (political) things,” said Gachagua.
Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi admitted that the cost of living was high for all Kenyans but said the country did not plunge into the mess in a day.
“We found ourselves here because of things that happened under the previous government which was borrowing carelessly. The truth is, to get out of that hole we must find a way of reducing borrowing and moving forward without falling deeper,” said Mudavadi.
He suggested that to get out of the situation, Kenyans must cooperate and correct each other and those in leadership agree to be corrected where they go astray.
“If we want to agree, there is a committee in place. We don’t want it to be a committee that opens up old political graves. Let us close ranks and work together to revive our economy,” said Mudavadi.
Water Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome described Raila as a powerhouse that must be told the truth too. “Raila, you know the elections process. The end came in August 2022. We must speak the truth to you. Allow this government to serve. You have been in government. It is time for Ruto to lead, he is working hard. The truth is the economy was destroyed when we were ejected from the government after you came in,” said Wahome.