BY NAOMI CIDI
The Coast region voted as one for Raila
Odinga and the Coalition for Reforms and
Democracy in the March 4, 2013 general
election. We did this in the belief that Raila
would win and the region would finally begin
to benefit substantially.
However, a decent interval has passed since
the second general election in a row in which
Coast put all its political eggs in one basket.
It has also been an interval during which a
government led by the Jubilee Coalition of
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy
President William Ruto has started to look at
the Coast region with new eyes and
The time has come to ask a fundamental question:
did Raila and Cord really have an agenda for Coast,
even in their manifesto? The answer to this question
goes to the very heart of the matter regarding the
most fundamental flaws of Coast’s political
organisation and vision. And the implications for an
effective way forward are far-reaching indeed.
Re-visiting the Cord manifesto, which was released
on Monday, January 28, 2013, I must confess I am
astonished all over again at what pre-poll euphoria
can do to critical thinking at both the individual and
the mass political levels. Entitled OUR PLAN FOR
GOVERNMENT 2013-2017, with the sub-title
Deepening Reforms for Equity and Social Justice, the
Cord manifesto opened with a scorecard section,
covering the years 2007-2012.
This scorecard prioritises the following achievement:
“The constitution of Kenya 2010 embodies these
guarantees and more. A presidential system, with
strong horizontal and vertical checks and balances,
has been introduced by the constitution of Kenya
Today, as we well know, the Cord leadership wants
nothing to do with this system and is in fact busy
organising a national referendum against it.
The manifesto then launched into a 15-point table of
contents, seemingly covering every section and
dynamic of Kenya’s public sector, from reforming
institutions of governance, full implementation of the
constitution, combating corruption, etc.
Out of 94 well-written and outstandingly well-
designed pages, the Cord manifesto devoted barely
three pages to the all-important theme and crucial
pledge of “Land Reforms for a Better Kenya”. This
section, pages 74-77, mentioned no region by name,
but made very large, very non-specific pledges, for
instance: “Ensure that all land records are secured
and digitally stored by 2014”; and, “In the first six
months, put in place mechanisms to address
squatter problems in the country”.
I revisited the Cord manifesto the week President
Uhuru distributed 60,000 title deeds at the Coast on
his first “working holiday” tour of the region as Head
of State. “Why wasn’t this in the Cord manifesto?”
was a question I heard often that week.
The way Cord did it, the Coast land problem was
handled only at the word-of-mouth level. A good
instance of this was during the first Presidential
Debate when candidate Raila and others had
candidate Uhuru boxed into a corner on the issue.
Uhuru admitted on-camera, before one of the biggest
live TV and radio audiences in Kenyan history, to his
family owning very large tracts of land in the Coast
region, for instance.
Cord crowed that with those words on that debate,
Uhuru lost the Coast vote for Jubilee – and lost it for
good. The Coast agenda should have been explicitly
defined in the Cord manifesto in all its three pillars of
land, education and economic empowerment.
With hindsight and nearly eight months of the
Jubilee government, it is becoming clear, practically
by the day, that Raila and his handlers deliberately
did not offer specifics and timeframes for a Coast
agenda under a Cord regime. Whatever Jubilee’s
limitations and tribulations have been in the period
since they entered office, it is clear Cord spared no
serious thought, beyond baiting their rivals with
populist rhetoric, regarding revamping education,
the economy and reviving the factories of the Coast.
By opening their 2013 manifesto with a celebration
dubbed “Scorecard: 2007-2012”, Cord was no doubt
attempting to cash in on Raila’s tenure as Prime
Minister of Kenya from 2008 to the first two months
of 2013. Cord was trying to make every region except
Mt Kenya and Rift Valley feel like a stronghold region
and share in the euphoria.
But stronghold regions have signature achievements
and pillar projects to point to. In our euphoria, we at
Coast forgot to ask the outgoing PM where are our
region’s signature achievements under your wise
leadership? Kisumu, your charity-begins-at-home
stronghold, got a new airport; what did Coast, also a
stronghold, end up with?
However, in the euphoria of the maximum belief that
we were helping convey him straight to State House,
Coast forgot to ask these now nagging questions. Let
me hasten to add that I am well aware that Raila’s
popularity remains undoubted; but is it deserved?
Who were the high-profile people who worked at the
Prime Minister’s Office through whom the people of
the Coast could activate their vision for the region?
The title deeds were already there, and many, many
more are needed. All Jubilee did was to see the big
picture, look forward, exercise some vision and
activate the documents by distributing them. It hurts
very fundamentally indeed to reflect that the man
Coast gave all our support has never really thought
the Coast agenda through.
But it doesn’t pain us at all to realize that now that
Jubilee are in power and also view Coast as a
prospective stronghold, come 2017, Uhuru and Ruto
are beginning to think, and to take the Coast Agenda,
It is impossible to over-emphasise the importance of
these twin realisations when it comes to the next
national vote-hunt in our long-suffering region.
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