Raila Odinga: I'm qualified to fight corruption

Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga endorses Nairobi Governor candidate Polycarp Igathe at Kasarani Stadium on August 6, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Raila Amolo Odinga has portrayed himself as the only candidate in the 2022 presidential race with the will and capacity to fight entrenched corruption and unite the country in the aftermath of next week’s General Election.

In his final pitch to the Kenya voter, in what is definitely his last role as a candidate, the former Prime Minister declared that his ticket with Martha Karua, is the only qualified to fight corruption even as he dismissed his main opponent, Deputy President William Ruto as a unfit to lead the nation.

 “The Auditor General tells us that Sh800 billion is stolen every year through corruption. This money is twice the economy of two of our neighbours in East African Community,” Raila said during his last campaign rally at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, yesterday.

He promised to dismantle the bandit economy of corruption and insisted that he is the best qualified to dismantle this cartel of thieves that have undermined the country’s growth.

“How have a few corrupt people got to be paid Sh800 billion every year from the national budget. How did the Government afford this? How did these people con us?” asked Raila, adding that if Kenya has managed to pay Sh800 billion to shadowy characters, then his government will have the capacity to pay a monthly stipend of Sh6,000 he has promised to Kenyans struggling with life.

Raila urged Kenyans to vote in the team of “Kenya’s fighters”, who he said would make the country a first-class democracy and economy. The Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya presidential flagbearer said their opponents have no history of fighting for the country’s good.

Fight against graft

“By voting in our next Deputy President Madam Martha Wangari Karua, you will have a complete army to fight for you and our country,” Raila told a charged crowd. “That is something you won’t find on the other side. There are neither fighters nor the fighting spirit on the other side.”

Raila’s 25-minute written speech, captured the message that his Azimio la Umoja One Kenya has sold to the masses in the past few months – that the election was a battle pitting the anti-corruption warriors against the ‘faces of corruption”, selling Azimio as a safe pair of hands.

“Who do you feel will ensure the unity of the country no matter the election results? Is it the man who shook the hand of his bitter rival and brought national reconciliation and healing or the hand of a deviant and a convict?”

He would also make reference to the election being a race between the heroes of the second liberation struggle, who fought for the Constitution, against the dark forces of regression, who drove Kenya into its grimmest days. The former Prime Minister termed Tuesday’s election as a historic moment that would make all the struggle birthed by the July 7, 1990 Saba Saba movement count. A struggle that he said had aimed to sink dictatorship.

“On Tuesday, we complete what we started on Saba Saba Day. And destiny has appointed the 7th multiparty election as the date of this completion.

The heroes, he said, included his wife Ida, who he recognised as “the pillar of our family and the secret weapon to our combined strength.”

On July 7, 1990, Raila alongside the late Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia and a scores of other reformists were detained by the Government as they pushed for the opening up for democratic space. They were to stay in detention until 1991 when they were released at the time government had bowed to pressure and acquiesced to the multi-party regime.

Karua had set the stage for when she rose to speak, she extolled Raila’s credentials as an anti-corruption Czar and kingpin for the fight for democracy, whose success includes the 2010 constitution.

“There are those who opposed the 2010 constitution,” she said, referring to Ruto’s opposition to the promulgation of the document.

“Our main role as Azimio is to unite the country. But we can’t do this without fighting corruption to ensure that we deliver on our promises.”

Besides, their anti-corruption message, the duo’s reference to the second liberation was part of message Azimio has sold to the voter that by electing Raila, Kenyans will be giving a freedom fighter an opportunity to lead the country for the first time since 1963.

Election nullification

In October 2017 as Kenya sweltered in the heat of the tension and excitement generated by the September 1, 2017 nullification of the presidential election Raila’s political career appeared over.

He had just shocked the world by pulling out of the repeat poll ordered by the Supreme Court, throwing Kenya into a tailspin. East Africa and the African continent was tensed up one again as Kenya tottered on the brink once again. The nullification of the presidential poll was itself a demonstration of the country’s unique tradition but also a manifestation of the historical contradictions that have afflicted Kenya since independence.

On one hand Kenya inspires hope for those on the continent aspiring for democracy and good governance. But although the country has remained a going concern and relatively stable, its stability has always been tenuous and fickle.

Kenya has held periodic elections every five years but in the post-1992 era these polls have left the country, bitterly divided. The polls, have for the most part been contested in court, amid claims of vote fraud. Significantly, Kenya’s elections and contestation has also often left the international community with egg on the face as happened in 2017 when foreign observers and international media validated an election that was soon invalidated by the Supreme Court.

The worst electoral outcome was in 2007 when that year’s polls generated into an orgy of violence. The next worse electoral conflict was in 2017 despite the enactment of a new and progressive constitution. Following the nullification of the 2017 presidential poll Raila appeared to close his illustrious political career by declaring that he would not participate in the election if transparency was not guaranteed, then he pulled out of the repeat poll.

Following months of political unrest, tension and a stalemate Raila and Kenya shocked the world again. Early 2018 Raila swore himself in a mock installation ceremony. Within weeks he and his bitter rival President Uhuru Kenyatta entered a rapprochement and declared peace. Kenya and the region sighed with relief once and Kenya retreated from the brink.

Man of handshakes

By the historic March 18 2018 handshake, Raila demonstrated his political character which is the ability to rise from the ashes after many have written him off. By the handshake Raila, demonstrated another trait-the ability to compromise, make a strategic retreat, reconcile and enter a peace with erstwhile political rivals to move and renew the country.

In 1998 Raila, after a bitter election in 1997 made peace with President Daniel Moi who had detained him in the past for political agitation.

In the wake of the 2007 polls, he made peace with President Mwai Kibaki.

The rapprochement with Uhuru is itself historic for the sons of two former friends turned bitter rivals (Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga) were declaring peace and unity. It symbolized national atonement and reconciliation.

Raila has been a dominant feature in most of Kenya major events of the past 40 years and survived them. He served three stints in political detention accused of fomenting rebellion, enduring immense suffering for himself and his close family.

He was never charged or prosecuted for any of these claims. He has lost and won many battles in the past four decades for which he has been labelled an enigma, a gadfly and a statesman.

While his legion of followers consider him a statesman, but his bitter rivals have labelled him a power-hungry demagogue. Critics, including many in the West demonized him as a godless communist, that should not be entrusted with Kenya, a pivotal state on the East African Coast.