Cord demands crisis talks as Raila makes big return

Saturday May 31 2014

PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE Cord leader Raila Odinga arrives at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, where opposition supporters staged a rally to welcome him back from the US on May 31, 2014.

PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE Cord leader Raila Odinga arrives at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, where opposition supporters staged a rally to welcome him back from the US on May 31, 2014. NATION MEDIA GROUP

By WALTER MENYA
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Cord leader Raila Odinga returned from a two-month visit to the US with a demand that the government convene a national dialogue forum to address the worsening political, security and economic conditions.

Addressing a well-attended rally at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, upon his arrival from the US, Mr Odinga also repeated Cord’s demand for the disbandment of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

The opposition coalition co-principals – Mr Odinga, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula — said IEBC, as currently constituted, cannot be trusted to deliver a free, fair and transparent General Election in 2017 after supposedly bungling the 2013 polls.

On the national dialogue, Mr Odinga said he was giving the ruling Jubilee coalition 60 days to respond.

“Kenya must hold a national dialogue at a convention consisting of all the major political coalitions represented in Parliament with the participation of representatives of civil society, religious denominations and workers organisations within the next 60 days from today,” he said in a written speech sent to the Sunday Nation, but which he did not read at the event.

JUBILEE HITS BACK

But speaking in Narok and Naivasha, Deputy President William Ruto criticised Cord for holding rallies that could cause divisions.

(READ: Jubilee hits back at the Opposition)

The Cord leaders also called for a complete overhaul of the security sector to ensure professionalism and patriotism and to restore investor confidence in the country, which would mean more tourists visiting the country.

“Kenya has become one of the most dangerous places to live in Africa. Change we must have. To paraphrase President Obama, ‘Change is coming to Kenya’,” Mr Odinga said.

And to ensure that the change is achieved, the leaders said they will hold countrywide rallies to keep the government on its toes. “We will take a message of hope across the country,” the Cord leader said.

Mr Odinga landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 2.45 pm from the US through Dubai. He had travelled to America at the invitation of the Boston University African Presidential Centre.

He skipped a scheduled news conference at the airport and headed straight to address an enthusiastic crowd of supporters that packed Uhuru Park and had waited for hours in the scorching sun.

The crowd started making its way into the historic park as early as 6 am. When the leaders started addressing them after 3 pm, the crowd shouted down some of the speakers, including Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero.

Mr Kidero has in the past been accused of trying to foment rebellion against Mr Odinga within ODM and its Nyanza political bedrock.

“The train for change is leaving the station from here, in Uhuru Park where many campaigns have started, ended and succeeded,” Mr Odinga said in his speech.

Mr Musyoka said the talks should take place on July 7 to coincide with the Saba Saba day failing which Cord will mobilise Kenyans to send Jubilee home. This seemed to be at variance with the 60-day ultimatum by Mr Odinga.

July 7 is the day in 1990 when Opposition politicians began agitation for a multi-party state in the face of an oppressive one-party Kanu regime. They achieved their dream in 1991.

Mr Odinga said the preparatory talks ahead of the proposed national dialogue should take place between the Jubilee and Cord sides to agree on the agenda and timetable.

As a minimum, the Cord leader said the agenda must include addressing the cost of basic necessities, peace and security for the land and the review and reform of security organs.

Other issues the Cord leader said must be included in the agenda of the talks are how to implement and empower devolution and ensuring county governments get their equitable share of national revenue, reform of the electoral system and the overhaul of IEBC, and eradication of corruption.

“In the three months that I have been away, Kenyans daily communicated their frustrations to me via email, SMS and phone calls. A baby was shot in Mombasa and his mother killed, part of the growing victims of insecurity that has claimed young and old, babies and mothers,” said Mr Odinga.

He also criticised the Jubilee administration for failing to rein in the soaring cost of living and increasing rates of poverty.

The Cord leader further took on the government for paying Sh1.4 billion to Anglo Leasing related companies despite protests from Kenyans.

“While we were away, billions of Kenya shillings were digitally and electronically transferred to agents of impunity before Kenyans could wink. And when we winked there were yet more claims of billions from us,” the former PM said alluding to a Twitter hash tag #BabaWhileYouWereAway that has been trending.

The “growing insecurity and hopelessness”, Mr Odinga said, has seen thousands of tourists leaving Kenya in droves and with it, massive job losses in the tourism sector, yet it is among the country’s economic mainstays.

“Everywhere, things are falling apart. There are still no laptops. Many projects have stalled since the Grand Coalition Government’s tenure ended. Government has become one huge experiment without a cogent scientific formula or coherent policy,” he said.

FAILED TO PROTECT DEVOLUTION

He also accused the government of failing to protect devolution, alluding to the increasing instances of impeachment motions facing governors across the country.

Failure to protect devolution, he said, has seen governors living “one day at a time and money is not flowing to the counties as required by law”.

The Jubilee administration, he said, had denied the counties Sh200 billion in equitable share.

“While we were away, the State Law Office or the Attorney-General’s Chambers ceased to host lawyers. It became the place for surgeons and morticians. To all Kenyans who spared their hard earned money to call, text or email me on the State of our Nation, I heard you. I thank you and I wish to respond to your petitions,” said Mr Odinga.

He urged Kenyans to stand up for their rights and fight for the ideals and promises of the constitution and not be cowed even in the face of intimidation and harassment by the government.

Mr Wetang’ula, on his part, pleaded for unity within Cord. The Senate Minority Leader also challenged Jubilee to respect Kenya’s Western allies.