Why there's no place for Raila's debt politics - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 30 January 2021

Why there's no place for Raila's debt politics


All voters in Mt Kenya should wake up early on election day next year and vote Raila Odinga for President.

Why? Because the region owes Raila the presidency.

 Not because he proposes the most innovative and effective solutions to the problems they face. Or because God of Kirinyaga has anointed him.

That was the message the ODM leader delivered to Central in his interview with a Kikuyu TV station on Monday.

Raila recalled that his family has supported Kikuyus since the struggle for Independence. His father Oginga Odinga refused to become prime minister because Jomo Kenyatta was in detention.

 “He agreed to let Kenyatta rule. This brought tranquillity between Luos and Kikuyus and later ushered the country’s Independence,” he said.

 Raila also revisited how he proclaimed “Kibaki Tosha!” in 2002, and campaigned for the Narc candidate while he was sick in bed. Kibaki won the vote, trouncing then Kanu green-horn Uhuru Kenyatta.

 And in 2018, Raila said, he abandoned millions of his supporters and legitimised President Kenyatta through the handshake. Surely, it is the turn of Kikuyus ‘kurudisha mkono’, isn’t it?

 But what kind of politics is that? It follows from the logic – suggested by Uhuru on January 9 – that it is not an individual who is elected as the President on merit. The presidency belongs to the community to which the man or woman comes from.

 In this thinking, Kenyans are not a nation but a collection of communities jostling for power. It staggers the mind that anyone calling themselves a statesman could view Kenya in such backward terms.

Why would an entire community be deemed to owe political debts following elite pacts negotiated between individuals behind closed doors?

 Doesn’t the talk of political debts expose the lie that politicians who claim to have decided to work together for higher values such as peace and national unity were, in fact, motivated by their greed for power?

Until now, Raila has remained cagey about whether he will run for President or not next year, but saying Kikuyus owe him confirms it.

Having squandered his legacy as a fighter for ‘Wanjiku’, the ODM leader lacks a convincing counter-narrative to the hustler versus dynasty wave of Deputy President William Ruto.

Ruto who twice put his political ambitions aside to campaign for Uhuru has not said Kikuyus owe him. He would be wise to avoid such talk.

Children are learning under trees. Public health care services are paralysed because of strikes by medical workers. Millions of people have lost livelihoods due to Uhuru’s disastrous economic stewardship. The Covid-19 pandemic has rendered 2 million more jobless.

About 800,000 fresh workers pour into the labour market each year without the hope of getting a job. Public debt repayments gobbled up about 61 per cent of taxes in the first half of the current financial year.

Yet what should worry Kenyans most is which community owes whom a political debt?

 Bildad Kaggia was among MPs who lost their seats in 1966 when, led by former Vice President Oginga Odinga, they formed the Kenya Peoples Union opposition party to resist the anti-people policies of the Kenyatta regime. Ahead of the ensuing by-elections, Kenyatta travelled to Kaggia’s Kandara constituency in Murang’a to campaign against his former fellow detainee. He asked him:

“Kaggia, you are advocating for free things, but we were together with Paul Ngei in jail. If you go to Ngei’s home, he has planted a lot of coffee and other crops. What have you done for yourself? If you go to [Fred] Kubai’s home he has a big house and a nice shamba. Kaggia, what have you done for yourself? We were together with Kung’u Karumba in jail and he is running his own business. Kaggia, what have you done for yourself?”

Days later, Kaggia responded to Kenyatta’s jibe thus: “I was not elected to Parliament to obtain a large farm, a big house or a transport business. My constituents sleep in mud houses; they have no shambas and have no businesses. So I am not ashamed to be identified with them. By the time they have these things, I will also be able to have them for myself.”

The measure of true statesmanship – as opposed to greed for power – is found in these immortal words of Shujaa Bildad Kaggia.

The next election must produce national leaders who put the interests of ordinary Kenyans first. Not conmen masquerading as statesmen.

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