Sunday, 8 June 2014

Raila Odinga: Why National Dialogue is Necessary

By Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga

A second unfortunate assumption is that once elections are held, the victors get an omnipotence to do as they wish with the country, its resources and its people. These two assumptions have been the cause of most of Africa’s underdevelopment and, regrettably, civil strife.

Africa is too diverse to be managed by the imagination and energies of one person or group of people. The continent, and every country in it, is made up of different religions, ethnic communities, racial groups and social classes. Our demographics separate us literally over various civilisations, from the traditional African culture to the most modern digital era.

So, firstly, no leader can arrogate himself to the position of the all-knowing all-powerful deliverer who will single handedly lift the people from the Third World and place them into the First World. African leaders must work with all persons across the board if they are to deliver the promises of independence to the different and divergent populations.

Secondly, no leader can always be prepared to deal with the emergencies that arise time and again. In Africa, our lives are unpredictable and often, we are caught up in crises; sometimes from draught brought about by unforeseen rain failure, or by inter-community clashes brought about by cultural conflicts, or competition for resources, or even political differences.

The only way leaders in Africa can meet these challenges is by being willing to work with others across the board to formulate solutions to the development challenges or the emergent problems.

Those leaders who have failed to do so, and in Africa they are regrettably many, have plunged their countries in unnecessary turmoil and subjected their people to avoidable suffering. In Kenya, we have had a taste of both successes and failures.

The common political philosophy since the era of the first President Jomo Kenyatta has been that of exclusion.

Kenya’s Presidents since independence have attempted to assume the position of the omniscient and omnipotent deliverer. The result of this has always been crisis, pain and failure.

Exclusionist politics

But in one occasion, turmoil that was fomented by this exclusionist and elitist approach to leadership was avoided while in another occasion, it was reversed before the crisis could result in an all out war.

I am of course talking of the IPPG of 1997 and the Serena Talks of 2008. I must congratulate both retired Presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki for their wisdom in calling for dialogue of all sectors of the society when we were faced with crisis that threatened to break the ties that bind us.

In 1997, we were in a very precarious situation indeed. The decision by Moi to agree to sit down with leaders from all sectors, including MPs, members of civil society, religious leaders and the business community helped us turn a crisis into opportunity and put the reform movement back on track, leading to the new Constitution that we eventually got in 2010.

Today, we are faced by similar crisis. Through the practice of elitist and exclusionist politics, the Jubilee Government has brought us to the position where the people are hungry, insecure, and increasingly hopeless.

Security has become the biggest problem in the country. Besides terrorism, the lives and property of all Kenyans are in danger. We are losing chunks of our nation particularly in Northern Kenya and the Coast while leaders issue statements from Nairobi.

We gave Jubilee the benefit of doubt for a year, but things only got worse. We have since come to the conclusion that the intelligence capability of the security sector has failed and the assets and equipment of the disciplined forces do not have sufficient upgrade.

The government declined to establish a judicial commission of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding and leading to the Westgate terror attack. And when the situation got out of hand, the authorities simply woke up and singled out the entire Somali community to scapegoat and persecute.

One of the unfortunate assumptions that African countries have made in adopting western democracy is that those who get elected are infused by their victory with an omniscience that enables them to formulate solutions for all the country’s problems.

Suddenly, there are memories of the Wagalla Massacre and the Mau Mau concentration camps and the pain they inflicted on our people.

Responsible leaders don’t sit back and treat such talk as idleness and ignorance. We feel such talk should be taken as a prelude to something dangerous for our country and should be addressed in an all-inclusive manner.

Kenya’s interest 

There can be no doubt that everywhere things are falling apart in our country. There are still no laptops and no one can blame this on CORD. The deployment of military in what are police operations has not improved security.

Last week, the government announced plans to deploy military to take care of traffic and security operations and they will be reporting to the Inspector General of Police. This is on top of Nyumba Kumi and reinvented provincial administration that is supposed to be taking orders directly from the President. There were also pronouncements that some security functions will be delegated to governors.

What a confused state of affairs! Instead of running and hiding, criminals are having a ball.

This is partly the reason we are saying Government has become one huge experiment without a cogent scientific formula or coherent policy.

More than 10,000 jobs have been lost in the tourist industry alone. This means more hopelessness and more ready-made terror recruits. The era of 10 per cent kickbacks is with us again. That is why leaders bicker openly in public about their communities being locked out of fat tenders.

In the meantime, prices are soaring out of the reach of ordinary Kenyans since money is being siphoned away from service delivery. The county governments that were to address the problems of our people at the grassroots and take pressure away from the National Government are not getting an equitable share of national revenue. They are being killed.

The IEBC is busy fighting for its life in criminal courts; election courts and is under probe by both state organs and non-state actors. Only Jubilee is defending it.

These do look to us like crises and we do not believe as Jubilee does, that they will simply disappear. That is why we are calling for a national dialogue so that every sector of our population can put on the table what it thinks can be done to address the problems.

We recognise that we cannot discuss everything, so we have limited ourselves to the most urgent and those that touch the most number of our people: security, implementation of devolution, cost of living, electoral reforms, eradication of corruption and equitable sharing of national revenue and public service positions.

We act in the interest of our country. The ball is in Jubilee’s court.

Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga is Kenya’s former Prime Minister and Leader of Official Opposition, CORD

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