Raila silent as Kenyans suffer amid medics strike, fake fertiliser scandal

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

If opposition chief Raila Odinga was in his characteristic modus operandi, he could be exploiting every available opportunity to bash the Kenya Kwanza administration for many shortcomings.

From the health workers' strike that is causing patients untold suffering, to increased road accidents that have left a trail of death and the fake fertiliser being probed by Parliament.

Unlike in the past when Raila would have issued several statements and addressed press conferences, lately he has delegated all these. The messages emanating from his corner are push for his African Union Commission chairmanship bid.

If we were in 2017 Raila would have issued a hard-hitting statement against the Transport Cabinet Secretary and the Ministry for the fatal road accidents and demanded the resignation of Kipchumba Murkomen.

On Tuesday eight people died in a road accident in Nakuru while seven others died in a grisly road crash in Kericho on Monday.

The road accidents according to National Transport and Safety Authority (NTDSA) data have claimed more than 1,200 lives since January.

The deaths recorded between January 1 to February 11, 2024, are high compared to the same period in 2023 which stood at 537.

Pedestrians lead in fatalities with 216, compared with 163 recorded last year Following closely are passengers who recorded 109 deaths which is 11 more compared to the 98 recorded in 2023 while motorcyclists recorded 140 deaths representing a decrease compared to 151 recorded in 2023.

Pillion passengers recorded 54 deaths compared to 68 witnessed last year while 35 drivers have lost their lives in road accidents. So far this year, only 9 pedal cyclists have died from an accident within the period under review compared to 8 last year. 

Despite the accidents Raila, has been closely following the unfolding events and in some instances directed ODM stalwarts to issue a statement while he remained mum. 

On the health workers’ strike, Kenyans have continued to bear the brunt with pregnant mothers who cannot afford services in private maternity facilities being left to deliver under tough conditions while patients suffering from chronic ailments such as cancer have failed to access specialists.

In developing countries like Kenya, doctors' strikes leave no remedial measure for emergency services in public health-care facilities which means that the burden of poor socioeconomic status and deficient infrastructure means that such service disruptions in low-income countries can have a more severe effect than in high-income settings.

But yet, Raila who has presented himself as the ‘peoples’ President’ has not uttered a word only through the ODM party officials.

Two months ago the Azimio leader mounted a campaign against Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha and the Principal Secretaries and wanted them held responsible for the Sh3.7 billion Kenya Medical Supplies Authority scandal.

He even criticised the sacking of Public Health PS Josephine Mburu as not enough, arguing that the CS bore the greatest responsibility for matters under her docket.

President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at Yoweri Museveni'sKisozi Country Home in Uganda. [PCS]

"A government should be administered as such, with ministers entrusted with specific responsibilities. Why do we not see ministers addressing key policy matters when it is the President making important policy decisions? If there is a major policy statement in education, it should come from the Minister of Education. Similarly, if there is a scandal at Kemsa, the Minister of Health should address the issue, not a Principal Secretary," he said.

In January, Raila hit out at Ruto's government over the alleged failure to disburse all the funds meant for learners in public schools.

In a statement to newsrooms, while responding to President Ruto’s New Year address in which he claimed that his administration had increased education funding, the opposition leader termed the Head of State’s remarks as a bald-faced lie.

Three months ago Raila slammed the Kenya Kwanza administration over what he termed as a straining of diplomatic relations between Kenya and East African Community (EAC) member states.

In a statement, he claimed that the EAC leaders did not attend Jamhuri Day celebrations due to the falling out with the Kenya Kwanza administration.

Raila accused President Ruto’s administration of perpetrating a series of blunders such as opening a legal battle with Uganda and the recent inflammatory remarks by Transport CS Murkomen on Rwanda. 

“None of our neighbouring EAC countries were represented at the level of President, Vice President or Prime Minister as would have been expected in such a significant occasion that has been the tradition until we have taken it for granted,” he said.

“We must tell Kenyans that our neighbours are not to blame for this negative development in our relationship. At the centre of the continuing damage of our relationship in EAC is the unbridled greed and corruption as practised by the Ruto government and the arrogance and foul mouth that has come with it,” he said. 

On November 25, 2023, Raila hit out at Ruto for sleeping on the job over his administration's response to devastating floods across the country.

He expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Kenya Kwanza administration was responding to the crisis noting that it was high time the government stepped up measures to address the situation and secure the lives of Kenyans 

According to political analysts, Raila is torn between assuming his opposition role and pleasing Ruto since he was the government’s project for AUC chairmanship.

Governance and Foreign Affairs Expert Prof Peter Kagwanja too felt that since the Azimio leader’s name will be fronted by the Kenya Kwanza administration, he could not bite the hands that seek to feed him saying he has zero options on holding it to account.

“He (Raila) kept quiet a long time ago probably because of the deal. He can’t present himself as a defender of the voiceless and the downtrodden,” said Kagwanja.

Charles Njoroge, a political pundit, said as a result of Raila being caged, young leaders were trying to fill the void and become peoples’ watchmen.

“Babu Owino and the young Turks have seen an opportunity and want to succeed Raila and it’s a good strategy because even if he (Raila) directs his party officials to speak on behalf of Kenyans, they can fill in his shoes and hence need for a fresh voice,” he said.