Sunday, 24 February 2013

An Open Letter to Kenyan People by PM Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga

In December 2002, Kenyans defeated a succession line-up offered by KANU that would have continued the battered policies that had crippled our nation for four decades.

About 10 years later, Kenyans go to an election in which the old team that was defeated in 2002 is applying fresh paint on its face and presenting itself as new.

As the regime that took over in 2002 exits, the team it defeated is asking Kenyans to trust it with power, based on reconditioned policies that have failed for 50 years.

I trust Kenyans know that if they scratch the paint what will emerge is the same old team, complete with its old veterans of corruption and impunity giving directions from behind the curtains.

The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) comprises leaders who intend to keep Kenya marching forward after a decade of keeping the flames of change burning. CORD believes in social democracy.

This is an ideology I have always confessed, not an experiment I am getting converted to. I have always believed there is something wrong with an economy where a minority at the top does well and gets everything while an overwhelming majority struggles to get by.

My partners, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula, share this view as do all the parties that have joined CORD. As Social Democrats, we believe in capitalism with a human face and that the economics and politics of “you are on your own” have not worked and will not work for us. Nobody knows the ideology of our competitors but I sense something familiar in our opponents.

They want Kenyans to take the same path they have been on for 50 years. That path takes us where we are coming from. It is decorated with signposts that say each Kenyan is on his or her own.

The signposts on this path say every Kenyan can choose to fail or succeed; the State will not help anyone. Our opponents believe that if you cannot pay fees for your child, it is your own problem; if you cannot afford medicine, it not your country’s business, if you can’t put food on your table, it is because you are lazy.

We took this path immediately after Independence when some of our leaders declared hakuna cha bure. At the time, the Mau Mau were asking to be considered for some of the land the colonialists were leaving behind. They were told hakuna cha bure.
This mindset persists in our competitors.

I witnessed it first hand in the Cabinet three years ago when I proposed a social protection programme for the poor. My plan was rejected with the argument that it will encourage “dependency.” They were still shouting hakuna cha bure 50 years later.

Despite the opposition, my office secured support of development partners and helped the Ministry of Gender to launch a cash transfer for the poor in Nairobi and Mombasa.

Now I don’t mean our opponents don’t mean well for Kenya. I believe they do. But some people just don’t get it however hard they try. It comes down to how and where one was brought up.

I grew up in the hands of parents who insisted on honesty, hard work and opportunity for all. You could never cheat your way to riches in Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s home. That is actually the case in most Kenyan homes.

Even more importantly, Jaramogi drilled in us the idea that every Kenyan needs to be supported to realise full potential and enjoy the fruits of freedom.

I was told I must be prepared to help every Kenyan who was down get back on their feet again. I was taught to fight for the good of the majority, not for the interests of a few. I was not brought up in the ideology of survival for the fittest and hakuna cha bure.

That is why I am promising programmes to assist poor Kenyans access food, universal health care, free education, and cash for the elderly, widows and orphans. That is why I promise to support all mothers in need to ensure their babies get enough nutrition.

I grew up knowing that extending a helping hand is the obligation of every good citizen, not a favour dished out at election time. This is the thinking that I want to bring into government.

I know it cost my father his job when he stood up for those who went to the forest to fight for freedom only to find their land grabbed. I believe standing by this principle will earn me the support of the majority of Kenyans who witnessed the devastation of runaway greed and the ideology of hakuna cha bure.

Every aspect of change I have fought for has led to greater good. From the Constitution to the slum upgrading programme I signed with UN-HABITAT in February 2003 to give a facelift to slums.

The road reserves I reclaimed about ten years ago have given us the first super highway in East and Central Africa. The by-passes and link roads I retraced and opened are easing traffic jams in Nairobi and other towns.

When I went to Japan two years ago, I agreed with Toyota on a plan to establish regional headquarters in Kenya. Toyota has now opened car assembly plants and facilities to train young Kenyans in Eldoret and other towns.

When I met Price Charles in Norway three years ago, I asked him to help us restore Kenya’s glorious Lake Naivasha. Life has returned to Lake Naivasha today.

We have true believers in this cause in CORD. Runaway greed is not in our DNA. We want Kenyans to walk with us out of the past called yesterday, represented in Jubilee, into the future of tomorrow. We say there should be no looking back, no matter what, because there is nothing there but memories that bring sorrow, to paraphrase a popular lyric.

We trust Kenyans will heed our call.

Mr Odinga is the CORD Presidential candidate

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