Friday, 27 September 2013

Hon Odinga Interview in South Africa on Westgate Attack

JOHANNESBURG - Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga says Kenya is even more determined than ever to play a role in the fight against terrorism.

He was speaking in an interview on eNCA on Thursday evening.

Odinga says despite al-Shabaab's terror attack, the country will not pull troops out of Somalia.

"We will not be intimidated or blackmailed by these desperate acts of terrorism because we did go to Somalia for a reason and that was to protect our own territorial integrity which was under threat.

"We already had a lot of terrorist attacks before our troops went to Somalia. Our presence in Somalia has helped to stabilise that country, we have weakened al-Shabaab substantially in Somalia and normalcy has returned to a very substantial portion of the Somali territory," said Odinga.

His statement follows last week’s terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, in which more than 60 people have been killed. Forensics teams from around the world are in Kenya helping to recover bodies and identify the terrorists behind the attack.

“Al-Shabaab is part of al-Qaeda, it’s part of a bigger international terrorist organisation and as you know this is not an issue that can be eradicated overnight. It has a process, but the international community is determined to proceed with this and Kenya must play its part in this whole confrontation,” he said. 
  • This story has been updated with more comments from Raila Odinga.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Speech by Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga at 8th EISA Annual Symposium, Johannesburg South Africa


Elections, electoral politics and coalition building in Africa:
Is democracy on trial?
EISA Executive Director,
Members of the EISA Board of Directors,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,


Let me first congratulate the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa for the valuable work it is doing across Africa. Over the last decade, ISA has transformed itself as a credible, efficient and professional organization in the Continent, working mainly in the areas of strengthening electoral processes, political parties and the legislatures in Africa.

The Eighth Symposium could not have come at a better time, focusing as it does on the emergence of coalitions as the future in Africa.

Not too long ago, as the Berlin wall started falling in Europe and new nations began to emerge out of the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the western world cheered the triumph of democracy and the demise of what Ronald Reagan once called" the evil empire".

Except for the bloody conflicts in former Yugoslavia and the unfinished agenda of national liberation in Chechnya, most of these "new nations" in Europe have settled down to be stable democracies where electoral politics as a means of forming and changing governments is accepted and democracy has more or less become institutionalized.

In Africa, the opposite is quite often the case: winners force their victory on losers who, quite understandably, cry foul and only succumb to electoral outcomes as fait accompli.

The democratic upsurge of the early 1990s that challenged post independence authoritarian regimes in Africa all seem to have met with tremendous resistance as new forms of authoritarian rule emerge and democratic gains get reversed.

If anything, every cycle of competitive electoral politics, or semi competitive as the case may be, has brought with it conflicts and crises that quite often disrupt the very foundations of the nation state itself.

Today, the threat of violence hangs over almost every election in Africa because as politics has got ever more competitive, a number of leaders have resorted to ethnic, as opposed to ideologically driven alliances and modes of mobilization in our multi-ethnic societies.

This strategy has emphasized ethnic group sizes in determining one’s value in politics. In this arrangement, the smaller your ethnic group, the less your chances of being invited to the high table of ethnic share-outs that pass for coalitions.

The politicization of ethnicity is having deep negative effects on national unity in Africa. It determines whether members of different groups within the nation perceive each other as friends or foes.

It determines whether a regime stays at the top and whether it succeeds or tumbles down. When people are mobilized as ethnic groups and not as followers of some ideology, it will not matter how well or badly the regime performs in terms of delivering national programs. The nation comes last. This is the latest threat to democracy and stability in Africa.

Presidential elections are once again becoming zero sum games in which the winners take all while the loser loses everything. Winning or losing is about survival, not delivery of services to the nation.

In this scenario, ignored groups tend to regroup and fight back as members of ethnic groups. While citizens can easily walk away from the table where they are considered useless because of their dismal ethnic numbers, they will not simply walk away from the table where the national cake is being divided. They will demand their share, somehow.

The mounting momentum of ethnic based coalitions is, sadly, coinciding with the re-emergence of the Big Man in Africa; a species we assumed dead and buried about a decade ago.

By the beginning of the 21st Century, the authoritarianism that characterized most of Africa for decades was in retreat.

The “Big Men” were swept out in rapid turns from Zambia, through Malawi, Zaire and Kenya. Elections were being fought fiercely in an arena in which democratic aspirations of the people were largely reflected in the results.

Where authoritarianism persisted, it was vigorously challenged. Africa’s grand march to democracy seemed irreversible.

Today, the “Big Men” are being reincarnated, in some cases, sadly, in the luminaries of the Second Liberation. They are inventing new tricks of survival; recruiting new converts and revising progressive constitutions to give themselves more power and longer terms while all the time tightening their grip on the nations.

Africa’s new Big Men know times have changed. They know they cannot rule by the gun or by decree anymore. So, they too have changed.

Today, they pose as democrats by organizing periodic elections, which they must win at all costs. They adhere to constitutions; but only after amending them to suit their intentions.

They purport to create free and independence Judiciary, then try to pack the courts of law with their loyalists, just incase some opposition leaders or civil society types decide to try their chances at justice in the courts. In other words, they leave nothing to chance.

In all cases the resistance to institutionalizing the democratic political culture comes from the entrenched economic and political interests within the ruling parties that have run the post colonial state since independence, or those that have hijacked the popular movements and converted them into cheer leaders in support of ethnic-based authoritarian rulers.

When they reverse the democratic gains, the ideological justification is usually framed in terms of Africa's uniqueness.

In their world, the problems democracy faces are not the results of the roadblocks put on the highway to democratization but the unsuitability of democracy itself to the African society.

This twisted logic needs to be rebuffed in view of reasonably successful processes of democratization in such countries as Senegal, South Africa, Mozambique, Ghana and Botswana.

Against this background, it is fitting to laud Africa’s opposition leaders that enter the ring year in, year out to take on ruling parties, knowing well enough that the odds are hugely against them.

Think of the job Morgan Tsvangirai is doing in Zimbabwe or the struggles of Kizza Besigiye in Uganda or the faith of Alassane Ouatara in Ivory Coast that led to his confirmation to the presidency. These are Africa’s real foot soldiers for democracy.

Together with exceptional cases like Senegal and Ghana, these leaders provide hope for competitive electoral politics, coalition building and the institutionalization of democracy in Africa.

In Senegal, for example, long time resistance and opposition to the ruling Socialist Party, founded by Leopold Sedar Senghor at the dawn of independence, saw the emergence of ideologically based coalitions in 2001 that finally uprooted the Socialist Party from power.

The beneficiary of this coalition, Abdoulaye Wade of the Liberal-leaning Senegalese Democratic Party, lost power subsequently in the elections of 2012 partly as a result of being seen to have betrayed the ideological commitments he had made with his coalition partners, and partly as a result of the perceived excesses in his government.

His regime was accused of complicity in several acts of corruption. His attempts to change the constitution to remove the two term limit so as to run for a third term added to his electoral woes while his opponents, comprising some of his former partners in government, capitalized on the betrayal and corruption issues, building a big enough electoral bloc to wrestle power from him in the 2012 elections.

But we must hasten to give Mr. Wade credit. In many places on the Continent, the opposition, however organized and popular, would not have wrestled power from the ruling party as happened in Senegal. The incumbent ruling party would have survived the electoral onslaught through the manipulation of the electoral process, use of state security organs to intimidate voters and outright cheating in the announcement of results.

Cameroon, for instance, presents the opposite picture of Senegal. The first multiparty elections were held in Cameroon in 1992, administered by Cameroon's Ministry of Territorial Administration despite requests by the opposition for an independent election commission to conduct the polls.

Amidst widespread reports of electoral fraud, Paul Biya narrowly defeated his main opposition coalition rival by 39 per cent to 36 per cent. International election observers concluded that "the Cameroon government, for which President Biya bears ultimate responsibility, took unusual extreme and illegitimate actions to ensure the President's victory. This led inexorably to the conclusion that the election was flawed to the point where its legitimacy and validity are called into question."

Subsequent elections after this 1992 experience have proved no better. If anything the Biya regime simply perfected the art of manipulating the electoral process in its favor and making a mockery of democracy in the eyes of the Cameroonian people. Governance institutions characteristic of a democratic polity such as an independent judiciary, a vibrant legislature and a civil society capable of keeping the state accountable to the people have all been subordinated to Biya's authoritarian rule, making it virtually impossible for any coalition to win elections against Biya's party in contemporary Cameroon.

So Senegal is somehow unique regarding the fate of coalition politics and democracy in Africa, and her case should be carefully studied regarding what needs to be done to nurture competitive electoral politics as an important aspect of institutionalizing democracy in Africa. Overtime, Senegal has seen a vigorous civil society emerge and stay the cause.

The institutions of the democratic state--though substantially dominated by the presidency, have remained sufficiently strong to withstand the excesses of creeping authoritarianism. This has made it possible for political coalitions to take advantage of competitive electoral politics to peacefully change governments through elections.

Further, reasonably independent election bodies, very contrary to experiences in other African countries, have handled refereeing political competition in Senegal.

I particularly recall the case of Cote d'Ivoire in 2010 where the election results announced by the legitimate electoral commission was rejected and overturned by the very government of then President Laurent Gbagbo who had overseen the unveiling of that election team.

With the benefit of hindsight, I could share a number of insights on competitive politics in Africa.
We must, with bold determination, remain committed long-term to good governance and leadership, whether we are Kenyan, Nigerian, Zimbabwean, South African or citizens of any other country on this great continent.

We must push vigorously for the independence and professionalism of police and national intelligence.

We must, through more coalitions if need be, bring more willing and committed partners on board, joining together to make democratic change – and all that this entails – not just possible, but a reality.

As a Pan Africanist, I believe that just like many other battles African citizens have fought in the past, this too we shall fight and win.

Thank you.

Raila A. Odinga EGH

Monday, 23 September 2013

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga Set to Launch Autobiography Next Month

Raila, daughter Winnie and wife Ida
The long awaited autobiography of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has gone to press. The over 1000 pages book went to press early this week and is expected to be out in two weeks’ time.

The autobiography is set to give a personal account of Mr. Odinga on his life and political journey and perhaps answer most questions transcending the four decades that he has been in Kenya’s politics and conceivably mirror on his future endeavours.

The book is expected to be launched on 6th October 2013 before Mr. Odinga embarks on a two week trip to the United States.

Mr. Odinga is expected to travel to South Africa on Wednesday this week where he is expected to open a conference on democracy. He will return to Nairobi where he will launch his personal story before leaving for the US.

Currently his team is working on the list of guests to grace the launch.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Resolutions of the CORD Parliamentary Group Meeting Held on 16th Sept 2013

We, CORD members of the Senate and the National Assembly, meeting today, Monday 16th September 2013 under the chair of our coalition co-principals, Rt, Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga and Senator Moses Wetangula have reaffirmed our strong commitment to stand with Kenyans on all matters of public interest and resolved as follows:

1. CORD remains committed to continue playing our role as a responsible opposition, providing credible and consistent alternative voice in the best interest of the people of Kenya.

2. CORD is deeply pained and concerned by the sharp rise in the cost of living inflamed by the improper application of the VAT Act to basic commodities like unga, bread, sugar and milk. We condemn in the strongest terms possible the obvious insensitivity of the Jubilee government on this matter.

3. CORD is equally perturbed by the continuing spate of insecurity in many parts of the country. We believe the cardinal duty of any government is to protect the lives and property of all citizens. It’s now apparent that the Jubilee government has miserably failed in this duty or it’s guilty of complicity.

4. CORD wishes the accused Kenyans a fair and just Trial and hope that the victims will find justice. We are equally strongly opposed to the Jubilee-driven short-sighted move to pull Kenya from the Rome statue. We believe this is a cynical agenda by the very well-known agents of impunity to roll back the country’s gains in the fight against entrenched impunity. The move is manifestly myopic, selfish and big shame on Kenya as an otherwise respectable member of the international community. CORD will continue to strongly oppose this move that is grossly injurious to Kenya.

5. CORD believes the Jubilee government has and continues to demonstrate bad faith and resistance to devolution. This is demonstrated by measures such as withholding roads money from county governments, denying county governments a role in security matters and the superficial attempt to mix up CDF with devolution.

6. As Parliament reconvenes tomorrow, and in the view of this grave concern, CORD has resolved to take the following measures:

a. Sponsor immediate amendment to the VAT act, to expressly exclude basic items from VAT to cushion ordinary Kenyans from their present suffering.

b. Oppose the two bills on the Kenya Police Service currently before the House. We will Strongly resist all attempts to sabotage the momentum of Police reforms by returning the country to the dark days of an imperial Police boss. We challenge the Jubilee government to resign if they cannot protect the lives and property of Kenyans.

c. We condemn the attempt to pull Kenya from the Rome statute and will strongly fight this move by all means possible. Those charged should have no fear if they believe they are innocent. One must wonder whether the spectacle of compromising witnesses and scampering to sabotage ICC is indeed a manifestation of innocence.

d. Continue the push to strengthen devolution by demanding increased allocation of resources to counties, including immediate release of roads funds to county governments.

7. CORD remains strong and committed to service to the people of Kenya.

Meanwhile CORD wishes to announce that we have appointed Hon. Gen. Joseph Nkaisery, Senator Dr. Agnes Zani and Hon. Dorcas Kedogo to join the CORD Coordination Board, the second highest organ of the coalition.

Signed by: The CORD coalition.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

CORD Urges Government to Suspend VAT Act and Address Rising Cost of Living

The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy is urging the Government to suspend the VAT Act until key issues therein are addressed.

CORD has stated that if the issues, to do with the rising cost of living, are not addressed then we will introduce amendments once the National Assembly resumes sittings next Tuesday.

ODM Executive Director Hon Magerer Langat explained that a joint Parliamentary Group of CORD affiliated Senators and MPs will meet at the Party's Secretariat next Monday to strategize on how to tackle the issue of the rising prices affecting ordinary Kenyans.

The Coalition is expected to take a collective approach on the VAT issue. CORD's top leadership feels that the law cannot continue to be applied in its current form. The proposed amendment is meant to cushion basic consumer goods that were previously not subject to VAT such as milk, cooking flour, bread and sanitary towels. CORD will seek a reduction from the current 16 percent to 10 percent.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

CORD Statement on the International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court is based on the principle of complimentarity which makes the court’s jurisdiction subordinate to national courts except in very limited and well established circumstances and situations.

The Court’s objective is partly to put an end to impunity so that the perpetrators of serious crimes within the jurisdiction of the court, including crimes against humanity, are punished.

The Constitution of Kenya aspires to put Kenya in the frontline of states that respect, defend and protect human rights with a view of developing a culture of human rights Articles 2 (5) and (6) and 59 of the Constitution together with the Bill of Rights underpin the centrality of Human Rights and International Law in Kenya's Legal System.

Kenya’s membership to the Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court is a demonstration of the people’s sovereign will, in action, to be part and parcel of the family of nations which since the creation of the United Nations have reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person. Lip service to the values and principles of the United Nations as contained in the Charter and the various declarations and covenants of the global body continues to be the bane of peace, security and well being of the world. The relationship between the International Criminal Court and the United Nations underscores its instrumentality in meeting the objectives of the international community in attaining peace and security.

For Kenya to remain faithful to the Constitution as enacted and proclaimed on 27th August 2010 we must not contemplate withdrawing from the Rome Statute. Kenya cannot exist outside the realm of international law in all situations. That thinking has not helped former and current leaders of Libya, Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan to run away from or be shielded from international justice.

Even before the enactment of the Constitution, Kenya had enacted the International Crimes Act of 2008. However it did not come into operation immediately. The Act domesticated the Rome Statute and established clear mechanisms for cooperation between Kenya and the International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute is now part of Kenya’s municipal law.

Withdrawal from the International Criminal Court will be inconsistent with and defeat the purposes and objectives of the Constitution of Kenya and will not bring honor to the nation and dignity to our leaders. The reputation of being the first country to pull out of the International Criminal Court is not a good one for Kenya. Merely a forthright ago the United Nations General Assembly reaffirmed its full support for the International Criminal Court and Kenya should not take lightly the resolutions and Commitment of the World body.

TheJubilee Coalitions motion to intimate Kenya's withdrawal from the Rome Statue is capricious and ill considered. It cannot objectively and concretely as it regards the current Kenyan cases at The Hague. Neither will the international Criminal Court suddenly disappear from the International Criminal Justice System or the world order.

We in CORD have never wanted to have our citizens tried outside our courts in a foreign land for crimes committed in our territory. We fought very hard for the creation of a court within our judicial and criminal justice system with the competence of dealing with international crimes. Collective amnesia has however been generated through falsehoods and propaganda to hoodwink the nation that the current cases in the Hague were triggered and propelled by way of a political stratagem and purpose calculated to advance the partisan course of a specific group. If that were so such abuse of a judicial process and oppressive conduct could never be entertained by any court including the International Criminal Court and that alone would be enough to vitiate any proceedings.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga with President Mwai Kibaki tried in vain to have a local judicial mechanism established by legislation but members of the 10th Parliament, most of them in the Jubilee camp frustrated the efforts. A delegation of senior ministers in the Grand Coalition Government was sent to Geneva and the Hague to seek more time to engage members of parliament and stakeholders with a view of avoiding the proceedings before the International Criminal Court. The Court and H.E. Kofi Annan granted the request but again the refrain ‘DON’T BE VAGUE SAY HAGUE’ had taken root. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka undertook an extensive shuttle diplomacy to stop or suspend the trial of Kenyans at the International Criminal Court again without success. Raila Odinga engaged both the United States and the United Kingdom governments on a similar mission but the efforts did not bear any fruit and the United Kingdom gave its reasons in declining the request in writing. Hon Moses Wetangula was also engaged in the initiatives as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and a member of the cabinet committee that was dealing with International Criminal Court matters at the time. The record of the CORD leadership has therefore been very clear, consistent and unequivocal both on the question of the creation of a competent national tribunal and the referral of the current cases in the Hague back to Kenya.

Finally CORD wishes the President, the Deputy President and Mr. Joshua Arap Sang well and truly believe that they will be absolved through the judicial process of the International Criminal Court and that the cause of justice will be met. During the general elections CORD accepted the candidature of the President and the Deputy President without any hesitation in the spirit of democracy and justice. The narrative of our politics must qualitatively change in order to create an enabling environment for reform and progress. Kenya is not on trial and the people of Kenya are not at the stakes. CORD believes that international justice will render good judgment to our sons and the nation will emerge stronger and more united.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Statement by CORD on the Value Added Tax Act 2013

In an attempt to simplify and clean up the administration of the VAT, the government decided to drastically reduce the number of goods and services which have been zero rated or exempted from VAT.

Food fell into this category, and we have now seen such basic commodities like processed milk shooting up in prices much to the suffering of ordinary wananchi.

There is no doubt that a chain reaction in price increases will follow as costs of transport go up, costs of farm inputs increase and those who offer services to make the economy run put up their costs as well.

Soon, schools will raise fees because of growing cost of food and other consumables. Soon, students in colleges will be asking for increase in allowances for those on HELB loans to be able to afford life.

Parents of students not receiving loans will have to dig deeper into their pockets.

The levying of 16 per cent VAT on X-ray and Diagnostic services will deal a severe below to the health of Kenyans. To cut costs and accommodate poor patients, doctors will cut out X-ray and other diagnostic services and rely on clinical symptoms alone. The result will be increases cases of misdiagnosis and lots of death.

The new VAT law is going to hit the ICT sector hard, with price of phones and cost of talking going up.

The ICT sector contributed 5% to the growth of GDP in 2011-2012 from contributing 3.7% to the growth of GDP in 2010.

High pricing will reduce digital penetration and less penetration will reduce contribution to the GDP growth.

Youth are going to be hit hardest by an increase in mobile phone, computers and computer software prices.

This law will hurt the youth who dominate the startup businesses. People living in rural areas will be cut off the digital economy penetration. Of course it will hit hard the unemployed, majority of who are youth.

It must be recalled that in his 2009 Budget Speech, President Uhuru Kenyatta, as Finance Minister then, said:

“Mobile telephones have become an essential aspect of our daily communication and transaction system. To make the telephone sets more affordable to wananchi and expand the subscription base, I propose to exempt from VAT, all telephones, for cellular networks or other wireless networks. I do hope the dealers in these products will pass this benefit to ordinary wananchi by lowering prices.”

We challenge the President to explain this change of heart.

Savings are going to suffer as government levies tax on financial services, including banking and withdrawal of money.

Confused by statistics and economic verbiage, many Kenyans are unaware that each time they withdraw money from their accounts or make transfers in any form; they pay 10 per cent tax. This has pushed the cost of withdrawals up, as banks and other financial agencies pass the costs directly to consumers of the services.

We see a situation where Kenyans may be forced to withdraw and keep money under their mattresses.

We had earlier warned against a blind increase of VAT, especially when it comes to basic commodities and services which affect the lives of ordinary wananchi.

VAT is basically an attack on consumption trends and habits. It is the most cruel way for a government to raise money in an economy that is depressed and underperforming.
It works best in an economy that is overheating.
If the government wants to raise revenue, there are better, less painful ways of doing so without making taxation a burden.

Our Recommendations:

The most logical approach is to cut down on public expenditure, expand the tax base and reduce the tax burden of the ordinary wananchi while supporting the livelihood of vulnerable groups through social safety nets.

In fact, with the depression our economy is going through, this was the time to lower VAT from 16 to 14 per cent to encourage consumption and spending.

But we need to go further than that by redefining our food self sufficiency strategy, especially the production of such basic foods like cereals, vegetables and fruits.

With the onset of devolution, such a policy would focus on supporting large scale commercial production of basic foods in areas where costs are low and productivity is high.

When this is accompanied by household producers who have access to affordable farm inputs and effective government extension service, then economic growth will truly include ordinary wananchi.

Government investment in this strategy would produce better results in the short and long run than engaging in the punitive exercise of punishing the poor and vulnerable when VAT is increased across the board. In fact, we fear the increase in VAT may lead to failure by the government to meet its target in revenue as people cut down on consumption because they cannot afford.

Finally, while we must continue to invest in infrastructure so as to integrate our economy and stimulate growth, let us not forget the basic issues of poverty that still face us and the need to pay attention to basic needs.

We must scale up social safety nets, including cash transfer to urban poor, orphans, widows and vulnerable children. We do not agree that you can grow an economy simply by taking money from consumers.

This is a message that both the national and county governments need to take seriously and implement so as to avert a looming disaster of a glittering economy in terms of infrastructure when the bottom of society wallows in poverty.

SEPTEMBER 4, 2013.