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I will stick with you on corruption war, Raila tells Uhuru

COUNTIES
By Saturday Standard Team | April 6th 2019
ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses sugarcane farmers and Sony Sugar Company employees at Sony Sports Grounds, yesterday. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

As anger simmered over President Uhuru Kenyatta’s missed opportunities in Thursday’s State of the Nation Address, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga affirmed that he will stand by his political buddy to the very end of handshake politics.

On a day Deputy President William Ruto and his troops were celebrating what a section of Kenyans considered a less than impressive address, Raila jumped to the defence of the President, saying he was taking a strategic approach to the fight against graft.

Raila said he would do everything to ensure the fight succeeded. 

“The President said there is no turning back in the fight against corruption. I support this resolve because corruption is the biggest enemy to development in this country,” he said.

 Frustrating

He spoke at Awendo town in Migori County yesterday where he commissioned the construction of Kenya Medical Training College.

Raila said he fully endorsed President Kenyatta’s State of the Nation address, saying Kenyans must support efforts being made to fight graft within and outside government.

Opposition MPs who accompanied Raila warned a clique they referred to as ‘Team Tanga Tanga’ against frustrating President Kenyatta’s war on corruption.

“Some of these MPs never slept last night. They are very worried after the President declared there was no turning back in the fight against corruption. They are trembling,” said Suna East MP Junet Mohammed.

Junet said some of the Jubilee leaders opposed to the fight against corruption were unhappy with the handshake between Raila and the President.

“They are opposed to everything Uhuru is doing with Raila. They don’t want the fight against corruption because they think they are being targeted. They don’t want the Building Bridges Initiative. These are the real enemies of development,” said Junet.

But in Isiolo, MPs allied to the Deputy President were buoyant, saying the Kenyatta’s speech represented an end to the perceived friction in the top Jubilee leadership.

“The country had grown weary of politics in funerals. It had also become sick of propaganda against other leaders. As leaders, we must engage in sober politics that will make our country better,” said Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo. “We cannot move forward as a country when some leaders plot to bring others down.” 

The Isiolo Senator spoke yesterday during a meeting in Isiolo South Constituency that was attended by the DP and Governors Abdi Kuti (Isiolo), Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri) and a host of MPs.

Saku MP Ali Rasso lauded President Kenyatta for declaring that he will stick to the rule of law in the war against corruption.

“If you are not a witness, a prosecutor or an investigator, why lament perennially about corruption?” Rasso posed.

Elsewhere, however, some leaders said Kenyatta’s address was ‘disappointing.’

Arrested and charged

“The President did not say anything that he has not said before. It is one thing to talk tough against corruption, it is a completely different thing to act decisively against the vice,” said Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua.

Conversations around corruption had hit a high in the days leading to the President’s address. Mega scandals involving loss of billions of shillings belonging to taxpayers in complex corruptionschemes have been dominating conversations.

“Unless someone is arrested and charged, all the President said will lose value,” said Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua.

Others termed the speech ‘underwhelming.’

“I don’t see anything different from what he has said previously,” Samuel Kimeu, Transparency International-Kenya’s Executive Director, told Saturday Standard. “The President seems to be backtracking on previous pronouncements on graft.” Mr Kimeu says the speech showed that the threshold for leadership in the Jubilee administration has been lowered. “The President seems convinced that a criminal record is the standard to serve in his government, not an ethical standard. This only means that it will be business as usual. The status quo remains,” he said.

Anglican Church of Kenya Emeritus Bishop of Eldoret Diocese Thomas Kogo said the President demonstrated a ‘lack of power in tackling corruption’, appearing to leave the war to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“It was disappointing to watch the President speak like a man whose hands are tied in the war on graft,” said Kogo.

Some farmers felt that the President’s speech failed to address their issues.

Kenya farmers Association Director Kipkorir Menjo said the President failed to address problems in the troubled maize sector.

Mr Menjo explained that maize farmers who were hit hard by delays in payment last year and affected by poor grain prices in 2019 expected the President to give specific measures to revive maize farming in the North Rift and Western regions. 

“I was not amused by the President’s address because we expected to hear from him a paradigm shift of policy in the maize sector but he ended up addressing the coffee sector, and even ended up awarding coffee farmers a revolving fund,” he said. Even as the platitudes and criticisms come in from Uhuru’s newfound foes and allies in the fluid Kenyan political landscape, it will not be lost on the President that he only has three more of such addresses to make to the nation. Granted, he will have many more opportunities around national days and events to address the citizens once again.

But some say this State of Nation Address will go down in history as one of the least inspiring, from a man whose oratory skills are almost beyond question.

“The President always gives excellent speeches,” said former anti-graft chief John Githongo. “And this one was no different, albeit far more muted than all his previous ones.”

[Reports by Daniel Wesangula, Stephen Rutto, Stanley Ongwae and Caleb Kingwara]

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