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Kenya is still far from achieving her goal of economic growth, says Raila

By David Ohito | September 2nd 2016
Opposition leader Raila Odinga in a meeting with a section of his party's MPs yesterday. He asked the MPs to pass the Bill on electoral reforms without pressing for amendments.

ODM leader, reflecting on the party‘s achievements in its 11 years of existence, says at a similar time next year, it will be in power driving the agenda for change. He spoke to Digital Editor David Ohito.

1. It has been 11 years since you started the Orange Democratic Movement. Where are we as a country?

We have made several steps forward and attained several gains for the country, but we are not where we ought to be in terms of the economy, standards of living and fundamental freedoms and rights. Our nationhood remains challenged and this has undermined our performance. In ODM, we believe there is still much work to be done.

2. What do you think are the biggest achievements for the party since inception?

We brought a new Constitution and Kenyans must never take this for granted. Without ODM, the regime that took over power in 2003 and the subsequent one were not keen on delivering a new constitution. Narc failed in the first term and even in the second term. Without ODM, the forces of status quo would not have allowed a new constitution to pass. Devolution, which is a more fundamental part of the Constitution, was particularly never going to be possible. Those who wanted to maintain the the status quo were not going to allow it. The Constitution we ended up with in 2010 is not what ODM would have wished for. We preferred the Bomas Draft. We also preferred bigger and stronger counties. But we had to choose between progressive change or nothing for our people. We accepted the changes, imperfect as they were, in the belief that they represented work in progress and steps forward. That remains our position and we are proud about it.

3. What are the biggest challenges the Orange party has encountered?

The party has had to contend with attempts by those in power to undermine and cripple it. We have had to constantly fight off attempts by those in power to buy off our members and sabotage our agenda. We are also operating in an environment where many, including our opponents, see political parties simply as tools for ascending to office after which they can be discarded. Our deep belief that parties are critical to the preservation of democracy is not shared by many.

4. Do you think Kenya is where it is supposed to be since this journey started 11 years ago?

We are not where we ought to be as a country. We can do better and Kenya deserves better. As you can see, there is competition in the region. Our neighbours are overtaking us. Corruption is holding us hostage. Decent standards of living have eluded us and we are deeply divided along tribal lines. We still have a lot of work to do.

5. Do you think merging of parties to form two or three major political alliances will help solve Kenya’s political problems?

No, that is not a solution. The parties are not the problem. Remember we lived for more than four decades under a single party then our problems only got worse. The solution is in the principles, ideologies, the integrity and capacity of those leading the nation. There must be clarity on where we want to go as a nation, how we want to get there and by when. If the leadership has no road-map, no capacity or integrity, it does not matter whether we have only one party or no party at all. We will still fail.

6. What lessons have you learnt while steering ODM?

One of the biggest lessons is the need for compromise and tolerance. There is always need for consultations and need to listen. Change will not always come in the package and at the pace in which we want it. So patient, it pays.

7. Where do you see ODM at a time like this next year?

I see ODM in power next year, driving the agenda for change and delivering good life to all our citizens. There is nowhere else for ODM to be at this time next year.

8. What strategies need to be implemented to strengthen the party in areas it is not popular?

ODM is by and large the party of choice in many parts of the country. That has been the case since its inception. We won the 2005 referendum because people believed in the agenda which eventually went into the party. We proved that we are the party of choice in 2007 and in 2013. Even in places where the party is seen to be weak, we actually exist in a very strong way. If we were to allow free and fair elections, devoid of ballot stuffing, intimidation of voters and agents, we would prove we are the party of choice for Kenyans. All the same, we are going all out to sell our agenda and we will do it in all parts of Kenya.

9. What in your opinion should be done to end cases of divining the country along party and tribal lines?

We need to sell our ideologies and policies and focus less on tribes and individuals. I am proud that ODM has done this. People know what we stand for. We believe in constitutionalism, devolution, equity, inclusivity, among other principles. These are issues that come to the minds of Kenyans when they hear of ODM. I do not know what our opponents stand for. Parties that stand for nothing end up resorting to politics of tribe and personalities and eventually water down party politics.

10. What do you think is the future of political parties in the country?

Parties are here to stay. Some will grow into strong institutions with recognized history and standing for clear and specific ideals. Others will keep struggling to know what they stand for and will continue struggling to find a bearing.

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