Since his return from the United States last week, Cord leader Raila Odinga has electrified the political scene and re-energised the Opposition. He has returned to his favourite political game – rallies. Sunday Nation writer ISAAC ONGIRI spoke to Mr Odinga about his political rallies and statements. Excerpts.
You look politically re-invigorated since you returned. What is inspiring you?
Well, my trip to the US was a sabbatical, a very rare opportunity to reflect and learn from other people’s experiences. I rested fully, and I am now feeling re-energised as you have put it. Now I am happy to be back home.
You said your trip achieved a lot and you served well as our ambassador. What did you do?
I have mentioned that when I was leaving the country, I made a call to the President (Kenyatta), which is standard practice when a leader like me is leaving.
I informed him I was going to be away for long. I told him I was going to act as a goodwill ambassador for the country while in the US. I feel I achieved a lot because when I was there, I tried to create confidence, that contrary to the information in the media, Kenya is a very safe destination. I addressed other bolder issues as well.
The forum also provided an opportunity to enlighten Americans about Africa. I gave a lecture at the Boston University, talking not just about Kenya but Africa. I gave several other lectures.
Did you manage to have a one-on-one meeting with US President Barack Obama?
This was not an official trip. I was on sabbatical, so I never met political leaders. I only met the mayor of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts; of course I communicated to other leaders in Washington on the phone contrary to what has been alleged in the media.
Your critics have claimed that you were in training on how to destabilise President Kenyatta’s administration. What do you say to that claim?
I don’t want to stoop so low to address busybodies. If I wanted to do something, I don’t have to go to Boston to be trained. If I wanted to do that, I would not have called President Kenyatta to tell him I was leaving the country. There was nothing sinister with my trip. It was above board.
Some people say you obtained Sh2 billion which you want to use for clandestine activities?
That shows the level of mediocrity of our intelligence system. They still believe in the era of Joseph Goebbels. You know Goebbels was Adolf Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda. He coined the theory of the great lie––that a lie repeated many times becomes truth.
Kenyans are capable of making up their minds without money. What they want is to create an impression that Kenyans cannot decide without money. And that for me is a recipe for disaster.
Will you be returning to the US?
I have several invitations to other institutions in the US. What I was doing at Boston is not complete, in fact apart from teaching, I was also learning. So, before the end of the year, I will be going back to the US to continue with the programme. But this time round, I will not be out for long.
In an interview with NTV’s BMJ Mureithi in the US, you said that some Anglo Leasing deals were genuine. Your opinion on this matter has changed since you landed in Nairobi. Why?
My opinion has not changed. The other day I saw an MP on TV completely quoting me out of context. What I said is that not all Anglo Leasing contracts were air. Goods were delivered in some. For instance in the naval ship deal, a delegation of MPs went to Spain under the leadership of Mr Marsden Madoka and Mr Joseph Nkaissery. They came back and gave a report on the inspection of the naval ship and that it was suitable for use by the Kenya Navy. That ship was actually delivered.
I did not give a general approval of Anglo Leasing contracts. The British and the Swiss governments have said that $200 million was wrongly paid. The relevant accounts have been frozen by the Swiss government. Kenyan authorities should begin the process of recovering the money.
Action should also be taken on those responsible because we have a lot of reports on this. I used to sit in the Security Council and I know a lot about this matter. We also have the Kroll report that has a lot of details on this scandal.
You have been talking about holding a national dialogue. What do you intend to achieve?
At the national dialogue table we want to address issues affecting our country, including corruption, so that we can offer our help on how some of these problems can be resolved.
Genuine investors could not stop investing in the Eurobond just because we have been asked to pay a creditor and refused. This excuse was lame and suspicious.
If you were the president, wouldn’t you have given an executive order for the payments of Anglo Leasing as President Kenyatta did under the same circumstances?
I would not have issued such orders. I would have instructed my team to do due diligence on the matter and follow up with an application to access frozen cash in the custody of the Swiss authorities.
You have demanded that the Sh1.4 billion already paid to Anglo Leasing be refunded. Who should be making the refund? The government or the suppliers?
That is their business. This money belongs to Kenyans and should be paid back.
What have you put in place to ensure a clear victory strategy in future polls?
I think it is premature to start talking about elections in 2017. We do not want to put the country on a campaign mood. Time is not ripe for campaigns. We are demanding that there should be a proper electoral infrastructure in the place first.
We can put in place a team that Kenyans can have confidence in, where the will of the people will be respected. That is why we are demanding that there must be changes in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and it must be known that IEBC does not belong to Jubilee. IEBC is supposed to be an institution that should serve this country neutrally. The commission is a referee. Just imagine if Kenya was playing Uganda and we have all Ugandan referees and linesmen, definitely Kenyans will not have confidence in the match.
We understand that when vote tallying at the Bomas of Kenya collapsed, you contemplated going there yourself. Why did you change your mind?
I didn’t want to cause a fiasco. We really restrained ourselves. In fact, by that time, we already had admissions from officials of the commission telling us about clandestine things going on there.
When I addressed the nation and said democracy was on trial, I had all the evidence both written and verbatim. Let us not have the same thing happening again. Elections must be free and fair.
Remember anyone can be rigged out, not only Raila. We always ask ourselves why they constructed a fibre optic cable line from Kencall to Bomas. Kencall served both IEBC and TNA. And why did they connect it to the National Intelligence Service (NIS) headquarters? Why did they have a server at the NIS headquarters in Ruaraka?
What does NIS have to do with elections? You would be shocked if I shared with you the evidence I have on this.
Attempts at using electoral technology have failed in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi;. Would you support the use of technology in the coming elections?
I am an engineer. With technology, if you want a machine to fail, you programme it to fail, if you want it to work, it will work. If technology worked in India with over 700 million people voting, why can’t it work in Kenya? It was manipulated. Ask Mr Ahmed Issack Hassan if he is aware that there was an extension of a fibre optic cable line from the tallying centre at Bomas to the NIS office in Ruaraka? Is he aware? And was that right?
In every election, nominations in your political party end up in shambles and the results are usually disastrous. Is this usually by design?
What we are doing now is that we will be strengthening our nomination rules. It is important to be fair to political parties because it is difficult for parties to police the nominations. I am proposing that we should do nominations much earlier; maybe one year before elections.
It is believed you had an incompetent team managing your elections in 2013?
That is propaganda. We had one of the best consultants on elections hired from the UK.
If you were to run for elections in 2017, would you change your approach to issues?
I have certain principles which will never change. I don’t do things for the sake of it or because I need your money. I am not, for instance, against the people working in the provincial administration but I insist it should be restructured.
There is a perception that Raila Odinga can’t win an election because you lost twice when you were so close to winning.
I don’t know why you keep repeating this fallacy. I have never lost any election, not in 2007 and 2013. Ask Mr Kibaki; he knows what happened in 2007. Ask TNA; they know what they did. It should not be that if you cannot steal, then you have lost.
Do you have any evidence to suggest that the claims made by Dr Oburu Oginga about threats to your life are credible?
No, no, no, leave that alone. Stay away from it.
Are you not concerned that your current association with Maina Njenga could alienate you from Kenyans?
What we are saying is that there is no need for extrajudicial killings. Even if he was a Mungiki, why can’t the law be followed? Should the government resort to killing people as a solution?
What about the Men in Black, the people who disrupted ODM polls?
That is rubbish, ask me something else.
Are there chances ODM will hold national elections?
We are working on it. We are soon going to receive the task force report. But ask the others, when is TNA holding its elections? When will URP do theirs? These parties only have interim officials. At least we made an attempt.