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Graft and greed hurting Kenyans, sending investors to other countries - Raila

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga speaks during an interview with The Standard at his Karen home on October 4, 2023. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga says the government does not have the interests of Kenyans at heart and is sabotaging local businesses by over-taxation and corruption.

In an interview with The Standard and KTN on Wednesday, Raila said the Kenya Kwanza government was wallowing in corruption and the situation was getting worse. “The government is not keen on fighting corruption because it is a product of it. They have institutionalised corruption,” he said.

He further alleged that some government officials had acquired prime property within a year in office, including one in Karen.

Raila said the government had revamped the Kenya National Trading Company (KNTC) that was registered in 1966 to help Africans buy property and was now being used by those connected in government to make billions at the expense of Kenyans.

“They said they want to use KNTC to import products so as to lower the prices of commodities, but those connected are importing sugar, maize, rice and cooking fat at the pretext of KNTC and have the goods cleared at the Port of Mombasa free of charge,” he said.

As a result of the importation of duty-free products, Raila said some local industries were suffering and had resorted to sacking staff, citing Bidco company that was offloading 2,000 workers.

Raila argued that whereas Kenya Kwanza campaigned on the platform of bottom-up policy, the administration has forgotten the poor and its leaders were now overtaxing the same people while those in power were making money.

“Taxes have gone up. Medical deduction is going up. They are making the previous Uhuru government look good,” he said, adding that the government had shortchanged Kenyans.

“We said the donkey is tired now we say the donkey has collapsed.”

He praised Uhuru for cushioning Kenyans from the high prices of fuel and other basic commodities.

“They accused me of being in government through the handshake and used the propaganda to fight me. They are now performing worse. We have given them our blue print if they want to use it well and good,” he said.

The opposition leader said he has been deliberately silent on many of these issues to give time to the National Dialogue Committee (NDC) to come up with the best solution for the challenges facing the country.

Raila said since he midwived the talks together with President William Ruto, any comments on his side could compromise the process.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who represents the opposition, and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichungw’ah are co-chairing the talks at the Bomas of Kenya.

The opposition leader has been missing in action for over a month, instead having low-key engagements across the country.

“Talks started a month ago. We cannot say now what will come out of it. We expect there will be a solution. That is why I have been silent,” he said.

He assured that Azimio will welcome a lasting solution, but warned that they will consider going back to the streets if nothing comes of the dialogue borne out of the private meeting between him and President Ruto in a residence in Mombasa.

Raila revealed that during the meeting brokered by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo, the parties agreed to work on a lasting solution to steer the country forward.

Another BBI moment

He said the ongoing talks should lead to a constitutional review given that after 13 years since the promulgation of the Constitution in August 2010, it was time for Kenyans to have a debate on what is best and what needs to be reviewed.

“Over 10 years is enough to know how the shoe fits in. In the United States, they reviewed their Constitution a year after it was written. For us, it is time we have a genuine conversation on what needs to be changed,” said Raila, noting that this was a constitutional moment.

The Azimio leader said the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was a good process only that it was dismissed on the grounds that it was initiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Raila promised to recognise Ruto as President if the talks succeed, explaining that the push to audit the last presidential election was not aimed at annulling Kenya Kwanza victory but for the sake of transparency and credibility of future polls.

“We are pushing to have better elections in future. We are not seeking the audit so as to question the current government in power,” he said.

The opposition leader accused some foreign diplomats of working to influence the elections, noting that they had continued to interfere in the country’s affairs.

Foreign interference

“You saw that Bomas during the presidential vote tallying, they are the ones who pushed the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to announce their candidate. They also had a hand at the Supreme Court when we challenged the elections,” said the former Prime Minister. 

“We now want to know the truth about the results of the presidential election so that we close that chapter and move on.”

The opposition leader said such interference by the foreign bodies had led to the coups sweeping across Africa from Mali to Niger, Burkina Faso and Gabon. “The issues of elections has brought problems in Africa in the hands of foreigners,” he said.

Raila revealed that for the last three months he has been without security yet that was a constitutional right, saying that he relies on God for protection.

“You remember the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said that they will not give me security if I would use the state agents to protect myself during the demonstrations and they recalled them. I hear they are just at the camp still awaiting reinstatement,” said the ODM leader.

“I have God above. They have decided to even go against the law to deny me what I am entitled to as my retirement benefits having been a prime minister. I will not waste time going to court for it.”

He hit out at Gachagua, claiming that it was a tragedy to have a DP who talks and acts with contempt, saying he once asked Ruto to censure his deputy.

Raila said the second in command behaved like he was a DP for Mt Kenya region, and was only concerned with the issues of the region, which he believes has bigger share in the Kenya Kwanza government.

“Gachagua forgets that every Kenyan pays taxes and therefore are entitled to development, but he has refused to understand he is the DP for Kenya and not Mt Kenya region,” he said.

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