Azimio leader Raila Odinga has said he won’t relent in his push for electoral justice and lowering the cost of living however long and arduous the journey will be.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard, Raila also said he is neither going for a nusu mkate agreement nor will he accept a handshake from President William Ruto.
Raila told The Standard the election was rigged in favour of his opponent in what he says was a scheme to predetermine the outcome of last year’s General Election. He points a finger at former IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati as the executor of the scheme.
Mr Odinga further gave three conditions that must be met if he were to hold any talks with President Ruto. First, he demands the opening of IEBC servers.
He also wants the Head of State to suspend the recruitment of new IEBC commissioners and finally, that the Kenya Kwanza administration lowers the cost of living.
“He (President William Ruto) is not ready for any talks,” said the ODM leader. “There is no basis of talking with him because he maintains a hard stance despite knowing he did not win the election. He is an imposter and his conscience should at least prick him.”
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The opposition leader dismissed claims that he’s out to negotiate a ‘nusu mkate’ government with the Kenya Kwanza administration, as was the case in 2008 with late President Mwai Kibaki. He defended his March 2018 handshake with Ruto’s predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, saying he agreed to work with him reforming the country.
“What I say during the day is what I say at night, I have not sent emissaries to negotiate terms with the government,” said Raila, rubbishing claims that he has been courting the president for a peace deal.
He insisted that he has evidence proving his votes were stolen in several parts of the country. “Ruto did not get 35 per cent of the votes in Mombasa, we have evidence that our votes were added to his tally… If he believes he won the election, let him start by opening the servers.”
Raila claimed an elaborate scheme to rig the elections started before the appointment of four IEBC commissioners in 2021. First, he claims Chebukati procured a compliant IT firm to set up the election infrastructure and colluded with its officials to manipulate election results.
The opposition leader further alleged that the former IEBC chairman did not involve his deputy Juliana Cherera, and commissioners Irene Masit, Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyang’aya in major decisions. He instead connived with two commissioners Boya Molu and Prof Abdi Guliye to turn the election in favour of Ruto.
He said Chebukati coerced police to release three Venezuelans, who were arrested at JKIA barely two weeks before the polls with the threat that the election would not happen. At the time, DCI detectives said the foreigners were arrested on suspicion of trying to interfere with the elections while Chebukati said they were contracted by the commission on official business.
Raila said all these claims are backed by a report from “ethical hackers” his side hired to access the IEBC system: “The hackers found the commission had four servers in different locations (Netherlands, Venezuela, the Anniversary Towers and Nairobi’s Industrial Area).”
“The server in Venezuela was operated by Jose Camargo who manipulated results and sent them to the IEBC portal at the Bomas.” When the matter of Carmago was ventilated before the Supreme Court, however, the judges dismissed the claims in strong terms.
Ironically, the ODM leader does not blame his rival Ruto for his alleged stolen victory but puts the responsibility squarely on Chebukati. Raila is pushing for more reforms at the electoral body, starting with the recruitment of new commissioners.
He warned of voter apathy if issues at the commission are not addressed. “Cameroon has had a voter turnout of fifteen per cent in recent elections, we will be lucky to reach forty per cent in 2027.”
Furthermore, Odinga defended his advocacy for electoral reforms, saying election rigging is not just a Kenyan problem but a continental affair. He wants the recruitment of IEBC officials to include all stakeholders in the electoral process.
“If this process is not balanced, we will end up with seven Chebukatis instead of the three we had in 2022.” He said.
Apart from electoral reforms, Raila Odinga also decried the high cost of living he says the Kenya Kwanza administration has created. The opposition leader criticised Ruto’s decision to remove subsidies that cushioned Kenyans from the ongoing global economic crisis. In addition to the prolonged drought, the Russia-Ukraine war has raised fuel prices and the cost of food.
In 2022, former President Uhuru Kenyatta introduced fuel and food subsidies to lower the prices of commodities. The government also started the Kazi Mtaani project that employed thousands of youths and women across the country. President Ruto, however, abolished these programs when he took power.
The president has come under sharp criticism from the opposition since removing these mitigation measures. Mr. Odinga accused his government for failing to cushion Kenyans amidst the high cost of living. “What business can a Sh500 loan open,” he said in criticism of the Hustlers’ Fund.
“The Kazi Mtaani gave youth and women purchasing power thus stimulating the economy. This administration has done nothing to cushion Kenyans from the global economic crisis unlike other countries.”
The former Prime Minister is now demanding the return of the subsidies and already gave a 14-day ultimatum to the government to do so. Failure to which, he will lead mass action against the government.
Earlier this month, seven ODM Members of Parliament held a closed door meeting with President William Ruto at the State House without informing the party leadership. Jubilee Party, a key member of the coalition is also facing leadership wrangles that are threatening to destabilise the coalition.
A section of Jubilee leaders led by nominated MP Sabina Chege resolved to work with the Kenya Kwanza government and removed one of Raila’s allies, Jeremiah Kioni, as the party’s Secretary General. The seven ODM legislators were also reprimanded by the party leadership for holding a ‘secret’ meeting with the Head of State.
In allaying fears of disunity in the opposition, the ODM leader says he sees nothing wrong with the MPs who met President Ruto at State House. “None of the legislators has said they have defected to Kenya Kwanza, I have asked the party leadership to give them a benefit of doubt. They can meet the president as long as they inform us.”
He has however, accused Ruto of insincerity over his remarks about wanting a strong opposition to check his administration. The Azimio leader claims the President made a pact with senior diplomats just before the election for the creation of a strong opposition leader’s office.
According to Raila, Ruto knew he would lose the election so he wanted the backing of the international community in pushing for an office of the leader of the opposition. He alleges this agreement was the origin of President Ruto’s memo to the Speaker of the National Assembly regarding Constitutional amendments. “He only wrote it after the diplomats asked him to do to his opponents what he wanted for himself in 2022.”
The opposition leader, however, termed the process as flawed and unconstitutional following the Court of Appeal judgement that barred a president from initiating a constitutional amendment process. He further accused Ruto of trying to bribe politicians to weaken the opposition. “What I see is the emergence of a strong-man syndrome and a return to single-party politics.”
The former presidential candidate says he is not greedy for power but insisted all that he is doing is for posterity. Raila said he will not be intimidated by threats as he does everything according to the rule of law. “We will not let Kenya to become a nation of crooks, as long as we are united, there is nothing we cannot achieve. We are close to Canaan.”