Raila’s urgency for presidency must not become a crisis for all Kenyans

Saturday January 18 2020

ODM leader Raila Odinga markets the building bridges (BBI) agenda at Kakamega's Bukhungu Stadium on January 18, 2020. It is increasingly clear that BBI is Mr Odinga and Mr Odinga is BBI. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Reigning powerman Raila Odinga and his legal brain Senator James Orengo want Kenya to hold a referendum before July.

Listen, Mr Odinga's urgency for the presidency must not become an emergency for Kenyans.

We must not be stampeded into a plebiscite. One, Kenyans have been taught, by Mr Odinga & Co, that elections divide them; cause them to fight; embitter them, and drive their economy southwards.

Two, the process of collection and collation of views on the Kenya they want has not been concluded, nor have the final findings by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) been agreed and ratified.

In fact, there should be no consultative forums before BBI completes its work. In fact, Mr Odinga, the principal owner of BBI, should explain the loud silence on the national conference mooted at the launch of the initiative's report last November.

Three, painstakingly and diligently, Kenya must put in place the infrastructure that will ensure and guarantee a referendum that is free and fair, verifiable and accountable.


Such infrastructure must also ensure and guarantee that Kenyans understand what the poll means and portends for the future.


At the General Election we choose leaders, but in a referendum we will be voting for an idea. We will vote to accept or reject a proposal meant to bring about change.

We need to be educated on this, especially because it appears there may be myriad proposals on the table.

Four, to argue that a June plebiscite will be unconnected to the 2022 General Election is to mislead people in order to misuse them. It is increasingly clear that BBI is Mr Odinga and Mr Odinga is BBI.

Just as the 1983 snap General Election will be forever about ejecting Charles Njonjo and allies from the system, so will this plebiscite be about Mr Odinga and BBI.

The momentum it is expected to create is intended to carry him into the 2022 presidential poll and into State House.


Five, to suggest that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is adequately prepared to manage a poll, or that it could inspire confidence in its management of one is transparent fiction.

It flies in the face of history, and the available evidence, on the performance of IEBC.

And it is therefore heartbreaking that Mr Odinga would be silent about the IEBC elephant in the electoral room in 2020.

He has previously consistently complained about the incompetence and propensity for rigging of poll umpires at every election since 1997.

Last, the real tragedy, however, is that the governing Jubilee Party and Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) would pretend they are ready for change or ready to change Kenya; they are not.

They still have the same mindsets, skills sets and tool kits they had when creating, witnessing, yet abetting Kenya's myriad problems.


Politicians cannot champion change if they do not change. But consider the following.

One. On February 28, 2014, the axis fronted by Mr Hassan Joho and Mr Ababu Namwamba was bound to beat Mr Odinga's allies to the leadership of ODM at Kasarani. Rented goons in black suits violently intervened.

They upended tables and chairs, scattered the ballot boxes and ballots and ransacked the polling station before disbelieving electors, candidates, diplomats, TV crews and audiences.

Thereafter, Mr Odinga handpicked the current office holders. Indeed, Mr Odinga is notorious for imposing candidates rather than allowing constituents to nominate, through fair and free elections, their candidates.

A party that cannot practise internal democracy cannot lead change or Kenya democratically. It must remove the log in its eye to see the speck in collective Kenyan eye.

Two. In September 8, 2016, some 11 parties were dissolved and merged to form Jubilee. Vague promises about polls were made, but none has been called since. Interim officials rule the roost.


Even a meeting of Jubilee's Parliamentary Group is dreaded by the high command. Why? A civil war will break out between factions allied to President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

All parties should first internally ready themselves for change by reinventing themselves. This means injection of new ideas, directions, strategies and leaders to tackle age-old challenges bedevilling Kenya.

Last, serious parties would have respected magisterial works and reports by Justices Johann Kriegler and Philip Waki on Kenya's poll chaos and historical injustices; Mr Paul Ndung'u's on land, and by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

They would have vouched for implementation of the above — not formation of BBI — and demonstrated how to save public money.

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