By Ndung’u Wainaina
This article will not dwell on Raila Odinga’s history. That has been taken care of by several articles and biographies by different authors locally and internationally. This article is about Raila Odinga’s promise to the people of Kenya for a new Kenya as a five-year transitional president, with the vow to being a consequential transformational, not transactional, presidency. This author would like to disclose he proposed and pushed for this arrangement and that his conscience is comfortable with the prospect of a Raila presidency.
The 1972 Democratic Party of United States of America campaign platform read: “We must restructure the social, political and economic relationships throughout the entire society in order to ensure equitable distribution of wealth and power. The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.” This powerful message is the heartbeat of Hon Odinga and the recently launched National Super Alliance (Nasa) manifesto, with the promise of a full implementation of the Constitution of Kenya – building a strong and stable progressive, people-centred servant leadership, creating middle and below inclusive economy, ensuring more labour productivity, addressing bad legacies of the past, building more people-centred security and safety, and and deepening devolved participatory system of governance.
I would like to address Hon. Raila first as follows:
Dear Raila Amolo Odinga, socialism is no longer a term to avoid in the current troubled world. Your best lesson is found in Bernie Sanders of United states of America, and Jeremy Corbyn of Britain. Bernie and Corbyn didn’t shrink from it. They gave voice to a social demand that is reverberating throughout the world. Voters, especially the desperate youth who are looking for economic opportunities, found it intriguing. They embraced its policies. Bernie and Corbyn are old. However, age didn’t matter in their quest for “political revolution” in a world ridden with ever-deepening capitalism crisis. Both staunch, left-inclined policy advocates are old but they both got the biggest youth vote boost. To both, age did not matter when it came to getting votes.
Raila, you must find out what is the common denominator of both Bernie and Jeremy and how it is connecting with the shifting global politics. There is no crime committed in you asserting that you are a pragmatic social democrat, setting out a new progressive social democratic vision based on the hope of an equitable Kenyan society. You should come strongly as a social democrat defending the rights of majority. This is where the world is leaning.
Looking at Raila’s daily public statements and the Nasa manifesto, it is clear that Odinga has learnt why, for instance, Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party came out very strong in the recently concluded British election. First, Corbyn’s leadership, which did not shy away from making a significant break from the neoliberal Blairite legacy, firmly re-established new progressive and pro-people policies. Secondly, the Labour manifesto titled “For the Many, Not the Few” promised increased public spending on job creation, education, healthcare, housing and social security to be funded by enhanced taxes on the richest five per cent, corporations and finance capital alongside re-nationalisation of the railways, mail service, water system and energy supply. This helped Jeremy to galvanise popular support from the working people and the unemployed. And thirdly, the phenomenal rise in support for the Labour Party among the British youth, which explicitly stands for wealth redistribution, participatory democracy, putting people before corporate interests, ending all forms of discrimination and reversing privatisation.
The resurgence of democratic socialism globally is a lesson that is driving Raila Odinga’s agenda for rebuilding a society along a social democratic vision of social development. In this regard, and looking at what, so far, Raila has stated in public, three things stand out. First, he is set to make a break from the corrupting influence of past. He is forthright in his critique of the existing order that is increasingly dominated by finance capital, giant corporations and a subservient state to criminal profiteering cartels. Secondly, he is determined to establish a more devolved economy and governance system with ordinary people at the centre – people who are able to tap into their potential and prioritise their needs without neo-liberal second-guessing. Thirdly, he is set to dismantle the old order and its institutional and organisational structures in order to embrace the social democratic aspirations of today’s youth and the working population by evolving a democratic and participatory vision and practice of social democracy rather than remaining nostalgic about the unitary statehood that has seen Kenya suffer from ethnic conflicts, gangsterisation of politics and authoritarian dictates of capital.
However, one thing Raila must continue to avoid is politics of hate and fear that an opportunistic, predatory, corrupt and criminal clique has fuelled against him. This has to be done not by remaining silent about hate politics but by combating it and exposing its vacuousness and irrationality.
But who really fears Raila, and why?
In 2003, after singlehandedly leading and coordinating a massive campaign for election of bedridden Mwai Kibaki, Raila was appointed Minister for Roads and, riding in the overwhelming public support for Narc and with cabinet approval, he declared war on those who had grabbed road reserves. Today, those who accused of him “destroying” property are greatest beneficiaries of his bold decisions.
He confronted cowboy contractors who did not build roads but were paid without jobs done. However, this came at a heavy political cost for he was, instead of getting any reward for it, betrayed, maligned called all sorts of names. Even those he sat with in Cabinet and made decisions he was supposed to implement turned against him.
Unlike Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila avoided attacking the opposition when he was Prime Minister. Like Kibaki, he focused on core policy and governing issues. That is hardly surprising. Poor people across the country, irrespective of tribe, have benefited from the actions of Raila as an opposition leader. He speaks for them.
He fights for fair and equal platforms for doing business. For him there is no room for extra-legal means of self-enrichment. He supports creating a transparent, fair and competitive environment for business, not rent-seeking. But these crooked tenderprenuers don’t want any of that. It’s not the water these sharks swim in.
The Constitution, which has brought fruits of Uhuru to hitherto neglected regions through devolution, was largely midwifed through his efforts. Raila wants every corner of Kenya to grow and have a sense of belonging.
It is with his input as government minister that stolen government resources, including Mau Forest, road reserves, KICC and other establishments, were recovered.
Raila wants comprehensive and genuine land reforms so that every Kenyan can equally and equitably benefit from land resources. Land in Kenya is so expensive because of speculation. Those who buy large tracts of land do so not for productive use, but for purely speculative purposes. This affects livelihoods and makes it expensive to access land resources for food security. Housing is also expensive because of speculation. Raila advocates change in land use and management for the benefit of the majority. The Constitution protects legally acquired land, but not corruptly or illegally acquired land. Raila’s work and record speaks for itself. The real people who fear Raila Odinga are beneficiaries of corrupt deals who feel most threatened by the opposition leader.
Why would miraa farmers in Meru come to Raila for help if he hates Gema? Why would ordinary Murang’a people seek Raila’s assistance when the government in power is led by the Kikuyu and is stripping them of their most vital resource – water? When thousands of young Kikuyu were being extra-judicially killed under a Kikuyu regime, it is Raila who spoke out.
Yet, many people have been conditioned to loath Raila because he is “controversial”. A small clique that has captured Kenya, privatised it and turned it into a wealth-extracting machine for their friends, relatives and families, hawks around this narrative like peremende. And if fighting for your people’s right, equity, fair share of country’s resources and demanding accountability from the government is controversy, why, that is good controversy!
Let us be real. It is the corrupt, the thieves, public money looters and land-grabbers that make perpetual claims that Raila is an existential threat. Raila supports a transparent and fair competitive environment for business, which the crooked don’t want.
Raila wants all civil servants to be paid well, but barred from doing business with government so as to eliminate corruption and conflict of interest. Those who benefit from corruption in the civil service don’t want this approach. They know he has the goodwill of the majority and if elected the government system of operation will change for good to serve the common mwananchi.
To prove my point, look who cries loudest that Raila is violent, destructive and anti-business. It is not the ordinary Mijikenda, Kikuyu or Kalenjin. It is those super rich with their ill-gotten wealth and occupying positions of influence who cannot explain how they got their enormous wealth. This is a clique that economist David Ndii calls “state predators”, ones who have never broken sweat creating wealth other than engaging in corrupt tendering and procurement business.
Raila is on record asserting that embracing diversity and inclusivity remains a crucial source of social and political stability for the country. He believes that a strong cohesive country depends on respecting and upholding the Constitution as well as genuinely propagating tolerance and nurturing a culture of diversity of human freedoms and rights where every Kenyan have equal chance to realise potential and protected by the law fairly.
From above analysis, what is it that Odinga promises to the people of Kenya in August 2017 election, that distinguishes himself from President Kenyatta?
One, Raila Odinga has played a pivotal role in the constitutional reforms process culminating in the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, unlike Uhuru, who has been key cog in the wheel of anti-reform politics, so that he has no business questioning Odinga’s democratic credentials. The Constitution ushered in a new era of democratic, ethical and transparent leadership, with obligation to promote democratic co-existence, societal tolerance of diversity and boost trust in public institutions’ capacity to deliver public good and social repair. Further, the Constitution addresses itself to the governance malpractices of the past. However, political corruption and disregard for the rule of law remains a serious barrier to implementing and enforcing the Constitution, thus stalling the realisation of the dreams and aspirations of Kenyans.
In the Nasa manifesto, he pledged to take concrete steps necessary to implement the Constitution, to address comprehensively the deep seated state fragility, long-standing social political and economical grievances, and re-evaluating the roles and functions of nascent Constitutional social and political institutions that form the basis of securing political and social stability of the country in the long run. Actual change requires positive human actions. It is this human action that Raila has pledged to enforce.
Two, Raila, contrary to Kenyatta’ re-centralisation policy, has pledged to deepen and strengthen devolved system of governance. He has promised three things: first, to ensure the allocations to county governments are increased proportionate to the national revenue share; two, he has promised to restructure, align, rationalise and downsize national ministries, departments and agencies and regional sector wide authorities rhyme with and respect the devolved system of government. This is aimed at removing costly, parallel and duplicating functions, and also release more funds being held unconstitutionally by national MDAs. This also includes massive overhaul of national policies, regulations and laws to bring them into conformity with the Constitution and devolution; three, he has pledged to strengthen democratic institutions that facilitate intergovernmental relations and ensure national institutions support devolution to build better constructive engagement between national and county
Three, Raila has promised people of Kenya to fundamentally alter the economic, fiscal, taxation and labour policies. Unlike Uhuru’s high capital, borrowing economy model, Raila has adopted a people-centred, inclusive economy, to reduce the taxation burden by broadening the taxation base. In the last four years, the country has seen the national government adopt and implement a dangerous debt-propelled economy. Exports, agriculture and manufacturing have declined tremendously. Raila has promised to contain, reduce and wean out borrowing to create friendly environment to access cheap credit to invest and create jobs.
The Constitution changed the economic, fiscal and taxation policy. The current revenue and taxation strategy is fiscally unbalanced as the national government continues to determine fiscal and taxation policy, with very limited participation of the county governments, leave alone the expert advice by the Revenue Allocation Commission. Further, Vision 2030 has not been radically reviewed and reformulated or tinkered with to bring it into conformity with the current law.
Under Raila, county governments will play a significant role in determining economic, fiscal and taxation policy of the country, and also help secure their broad financial autonomy sustainability in several key ways. One, his policy promise to support county governments contribute to an enabling environment for pro-poor economic growth and foster effective and efficient registration and licences for business and property activities is laudable. Two, this policy would enable county governments focus on an economy grounded in export-led growth, manufacturing and diversification through building transparent and favourable competitiveness, and a property rights regime that support business. Three, Raila’s economic policy strengthens the devolved system of government as driver of transforming the peasantry’s rural agricultural economy into modern, high-yield value added export-oriented productivity. This will lead to the strengthening of the county-based local private sector, building inter-counties economic cooperation and supporting local small-scale businesses and manufacturing. His policy directly addresses the deteriorating social and economic material conditions of the Kenyan people – unfavourable economic competiveness and business unfriendly environment of the country, especially for middle and small scale businesses, as well as building a secure environment, friendly to the livelihoods of the people, and tackling inequality.
Four, Raila’s approach to security and law enforcement is miles better than his competitor’s. National government has not been able and or willing to address the security and policing system in the context of devolved system of government informed by unique local security challenges and dynamics. While Uhuru is determined to retain the old security order, Raila has adopted a hybrid policy with specialised security agencies handling strategic security matters and localised policing and law enforcement as the bedrock of successful policing and crime prevention. Raila’s policy promises to devolve certain policing services to address the security and policing system in context of devolved system of government and be responsible for public safety and security within the County. Also this policy pledges to decentralise and strengthen judicial, prosecutorial and other criminal justice systems at county level to expedite and facilitate fair, easier access to justice and resolution of disputes
Five, Raila is genuine about land reforms. He has pledged to institute comprehensive land reforms to ensure accessibility of land resources fairly by all citizens, create a transparent land and property registry at county level, and enforce equitable share of natural resources wealth. His policy will also seek to strengthen the National Land Commission and set up mechanisms to tackle not only historical land injustices but also the broad spectrum of human rights violations. Uhuru has spent the last four years in office undermining every aspect of land reforms by adopting obscure policies.
Six, Raila has pledged to adopt a progressive human rights-based foreign policy with well-grounded foresight to advance the country’s strategic, trade, economic and security interests regionally and globally. Uhuru’s foreign policy has been about his personal gain and legitimising his government, which, in itself, says a lot.
Seven, Raila has promised policy structural shifts to realise the conditions for generational equity, gender equality and the fulfilment of human rights obligations of the state. On the other hand, Uhuru has bestowed young people with enormous debt with no fruits. He has spent four years without fulfilling constitutional obligations to implement policy of gender equality, inclusivity and intergenerational equity.
Eight, Raila believes in justice. Kenya is a country desperately looking for a serious leader with clarity of vision, one who understands the dynamics of the new world odder. It wants a leader with foresight and conviction. Kenya deserves a leader who has been tried and tested after four years of catastrophic apprenticeship leadership. That person is Raila Odinga.
Nine, the right-wing clique that is hell-bent on demonising Odinga does not want Kenyans to see the systems of oppression, of privilege and exclusion that has been maintained since colonial times, to understand how these constantly work to extract our resources, undermine our dignity and deny us our rights and instead bestow the same upon a minority at the top. This is precisely why he is the man we must elect as our fifth president.
To conclude, Raila offers the people of Kenya a progressive social democracy vision, one that builds a cohesive, inclusive and united Kenya. It creates equality and equity. It is a vision of human rights, to give birth to a State of democratic rule of law. Raila is the pivotal bridge to a new constitutional, democratic and ethical Kenya. He has every credential and qualification to hold the highest office of the Republic of Kenya. ^
Writer is specialises in human security, transitional justice and human rights policy
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