The Cord Coalition’s Saba Saba rally on Monday left a lot of questions unanswered.
In an interview with Nation’s Managing Editor for Special Projects MACHARIA GAITHO,Opposition leader Raila Odinga at his Capital Hill Square office in Nairobi tried to explain his next agenda beyond the flopped Saba saba rally that failed to force the Jubilee government to National Dialogue.
Below is the full text interview;
QN; No doubt you watched the World Cup game last night in which Brazil was massacred by Germany. Are you traumatised or celebrating this morning?
RAILA; I’m torn. As you know I am ‘half-German’ and I’ve always supported Germany, but the Samba Boys have been one of my favourite teams…
QN; Somebody said they were more of Shamba boys than Samba boys…
RAILA; Yes, this is the worst team Brazil has ever sent to the World Cup.
QN; Now, when you came to Uhuru Park for the Saba Saba rally, it was after a long period of preparations in terms of planning and public rallies across the countries. One would
expect that you’d have clearly thought through the issues you want to propose for a referendum, not come to propose a committee to look for the questions. That’s
doing things the wrong way round. Why can’t you give Kenyans a clear answer on the issues you want them to vote on?
RAILA;This was a public rally. We are seeking the views and opinions of the people in order that we can
frame the questions. But it is very clear that there are deep issues we have that are not all for a referendum, and there are a few key ones that are referendum issues.
QN; You have a 13-point agenda, of which maybe 10 or 11, like the cost of living, cannot be put before a referendum. Have you crystalised
your thoughts on what the referendum issues are?
RAILA; Yes, we are very clear. One is the Electoral Commission(Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission). The other is the issue of devolution.
The third is the constitutional provisions on the
Legislature. Those are the key issues that we want to take to the people.
QN;You will take those issues to the people, but a referendum proposal must still get the approval of Parliament, where Cord does not
have the same numbers as Jubilee and would still fall victim to the ‘tyranny of numbers”.
RAILA; It’s not whether parliament can reject it. The mandate is with the people, and that is why we are
collecting one million signatures. A petition of one million signatures cannot be defeated by some350
QN; If Parliament votes it down?
RAILA; They cannot. That is because we have constitutional provisions on how a public petition for a referendum can be presented. All parliament can do is consider the way the question is framed.
Their work is limited to editing.
QN; Is this whole campaign aimed at replicating the Saba Saba spirit or movement of 1990,or the second phase of 1997?
RAILA; Basically, that is what it is. You can read the mood in the country and this has received a lot of
support. Everyone will agree that we have serious issues that must be addressed.
We have actually reminded Kenyans that what is happening now happened also in the early sixties
after independence, with various amendments to the Constitution by Parliament that completely eroded the gains that were in the Lancaster House Constitution.
We now have a situation where Parliament is trying to amend the Constitution through subsidiary
QN; Do you have specific example of laws that purport to amend the Constitution or are unconstitutional?
RAILA; One is the Media Bill…
QN; Caution…We are in court on that one.
RAILA; Yes. The other is the Police Service Commission.
They are making amendments that purport to give the president certain powers in appointments. The
Constitution envisaged an independent police service, an Inspector-General who is not under the control of any other person or authority.
As we talk, the Land Law amendments are in the
pipeline to remove authority from the National Land Commission and return powers back to the
Cabinet Secretary, read the president, and the Commissioner of Lands, which is where all the
present mess came from.
QN; Are these not issues that can be redressed through Parliament?
RAILA; But if it is Parliament that is creating the problems?
QN; In 1990, the goal of Saba Saba was very clear, to uproot a one party system which entrenched a dictatorial regime that could
not claim legitimacy. This time around when we try to do the same thing, are we not seeking regime change?
RAILA; We are not trying to seek regime change. We are
saying that there are certain errors, acts of omission and commission brought by the Legislature and the Executive, that can only be corrected by the people. If we don’t arrest a rogue Parliament that is trying to bastardise the Constitution, we will just have to go back to the trenches.
We now have an Executive that is not in Parliament, unlike in the past when the President was an MP, but we have a situation where the
Legislature is taking direction from the Executive to introduce laws that aim to cancel the gains achieved by Kenyans at great sacrifice.
QN; Going ‘back to the trenches’ means what exactly? Demonstrations and riots? Mass
action? What kind of pressure will be brought to bear and what are the risks?
RAILA; The Constitution actually provides for mass action,through petitions, demonstrations, picketing and so on. That is why we have been having these rallies and we just notify the police. The job of the
police is to provide security, but we saw them preventing groups making their way to Uhuru Park.
That was meant to intimidate people not to come our rally, which is a violation of people’s rights.
QN; The term ‘mass action’ in many minds conjures up images of the 2007-2008 post-election violence that went out of control.
How do you provide assurances that a repeat is not in the offing?
RAILA; Mass action is very different. Violent demonstrations and attacks and killing each other is not a part of mass action; that is criminal activity. We talk about democratic mass action, that is about picketing, demonstrations, which happen everywhere.
If you go to certain countries you will find people picketing or demonstrating in support of animal
rights, for instance. The police will even cordon off an area and escort those demonstrating. That is mass action. We must change our thinking that mass action is something that must be wild and destructive.
QN; In this case, when you push campaigns from outside Parliament and other established structures, are you questioning the legitimacy of the present Executive and Legislature, and the courts too?
RAILA; We are not questioning, we are past that. Remember we went to the Supreme Court challenging the outcome of the presidential
elections. The court made a ruling, which we did not agree with, but we accepted and moved on. I even congratulated the President and even since that time you will see I always refer to him as the President.
Recently, I even wrote a letter to the President, and that shows I recognise his office. We also don’t
question the legitimacy of Parliament; we are only saying that this Parliament has come under what
they call tyranny of numbers, which, in my view,they abuse.
Secondly, this Parliament wants to do the job of the executive. Parliament is supposed to be an
oversight body, but they for example, interfere with government procurements, saying ‘don’t give this
contract to this company, give it to this other one’.
They are getting involved with Executive functions.
There must be a clear demarcation between Legislature and Executive. The Executive must be allowed to work and execute its functions.
QN; Will you at any time be calling for early elections? Is dissolution of Parliament and calling for elections one of your demands?
RAILA; No, that is not a… I mean, I don’t want to be pre-emptive here. As you know we are mandating a
committee to frame these questions, and then take it to the people. You need to know that there are
certain things the people will not accept and others they will accept. I don’t want to pre-empt. That’s
(elections) not even in my mind. What we really want to see is that the critical issues are addressed.
QN; The opposition in Parliament has been very ineffective for the last one year. Even given the ‘tyranny of numbers’ situation, many Cord MPs have been quite willing to tag along with the Majority. Is this whole
campaign grounded on the need to re-energise the Opposition but from outside Parliament?
RAILA; To have 135 Members in a House of 359 is not a mean number…
QN; That’s why we say they have been ineffective because they have impressive numbers to make a mark but…
RAILA; It’s a big number. And you know that Jubilee itself is a coalition and some coalition partners may not
always move in tandem. You will say that there are times they have defeated the government, so they
have tried their best.
We do meet with them, me and Kalonzo Musyoka,we lead the opposition from outside Parliament,
but we meet with our members when we have Parliamentary Group meetings, and tell them what
we think is not going right, discuss our agenda and so on.
You see, in the past we used to have spokespersons from the opposition. The tricky issue now is that
the current Parliament is without the Executive. In the past, we had cabinet ministers who would be in
Parliament and somebody from the opposition would be shadowing the minister. Today we don’t have the minister in Parliament; we have
Departmental committees, and our MPs are also members of those committees. So when they bring
a report it is a report of the committee that includes members from both sides, yet Parliament,
collectively, is supposed to exercise oversight over the Executive.
QN; Will you be asking for a reversal to the old system?
RAILA; We think we need to review this, and we think that many MPs, from both sides, agree that the
Executive has not been held fully accountable to Parliament because ministers cannot be asked
QN; This campaign has raised political temperatures, whether, out of inciting statements coming from Cord rallies or those coming from the Jubilee side. Even as you
carry on, do you see a need to help cool down things and assure Kenyans that we are not going down the path of destruction and violence?
RAILA; Well, you can call it the level of intolerance in our country. I don’t see anything that we’ve done out of
the ordinary. We are basically pointing out to the government areas it must attend to, and also
drawing the attention of the country that certain things are not going right. We are raising the red flag that something worrying is happening in our country.
People seem to think that the temperatures are too high, but for the last 12 months, everyone was
saying that the opposition was asleep, that it was not doing its work. Even the government was
saying that the opposition is sleeping.
But initially we said ‘these people have been elected, let’s give them space to do their work, to
implement their programmes, otherwise people will say we never gave them a chance’. That’s the
reason why we pulled back. People took it as weakness, but that was not the case. But then nothing was happening, and everything was going
in the wrong direction, That’s why we said, let’s change it from here on.
QN; Many of the issues raised in the 13-point agenda have very much to do with weaknesses of the Jubilee government: the cost of living, slow revival of economy,insecurity, unemployment etc. Why don’t you
allow them to fail in their own sweet time,rather than try to help them out of a hole they are digging for themselves?
RAILA; You know that is not really our agenda. We didn’t want to address their weaknesses. But when we carried out consultations, those are the issues which affected the people. If you don’t address
them, you are not concerned about their plight.
Those are the issues raised by the people and we have to draw the attention of the Jubilee government to the plight of the people. If you go to Kawangware, Mathare, Kibera, just stand there, and you will hear people are talking about the price of
unga, the price of bread, price of cooking oil, high house rents, matatu fares…
QN; But if you are looking for a forum where you can sit down with the government and seek
joint solutions to those basic issues, will you then not be looking at sharing power?
RAILA; No. Remember we said we wanted dialogue on fundamental issues. There are the basic issues that we have mentioned, and then there are the issues on which we wanted to agree how to move forward in a bipartisan manner. If you want to go for a referendum, it’s better to take a bipartisan approach.
I’m sure even the Jubilee side agrees that the Devolution Chapter needs to be looked into. Even the Executive Chapter needs to be looked into; how the Legislature and Executive co-exist. The IEBC,even they themselves want to see certain changes.
All of us know that a lot of money was squandered.
I was in the cabinet committee dealing with these issues, delayed procurement of equipment, inflated
costs, all these irregularities.
QN; As Prime Minister, you chaired the cabinet committee that made decisions on the government intervention after the IEBC failed to procure election equipment and
material in time. Were you then not part of the problem?
RAILA; We, the cabinet, got involved at the last stage. You know the IEBC is supposed to be independent.
They presented their budget that was approved and money allocated by Treasury, but no procurement was happening. Elections were approaching and no arrangements had been done.
We called a meeting to be briefed by IEBC on preparations, and we realised there was a serious
problem because they were now saying they would go manual after failing to procure electronic kits.
This was because of disagreements among members, with some wanting an Indian company, others Canadian, and others South African. The
Public Accounts Committee of Parliament is carrying out investigations. You will be shocked at what transpired.
That is how the Cabinet got involved, to assist so that we are able to implement recommendations of
the Kriegler Commission on electronic voter registration and identification. I was part of the
attempt to have a solution, I was not part of the problem.
QN; There have been various other accusations coming for the Jubilee side. You have been accused in regard to the violence in
Mpeketoni, of planning to use Mungiki and the Mombasa Republican Council to cause
trouble, and so on. How do you respond to those accusations coming from Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku and others?
RAILA; Even those people who are talking, like ole Lenku,when we meet privately, he doesn’t believe what
he is saying. It’s all hot air. There’s nothing as ridiculous as those wild allegations, and they know it. They know very well that we could have nothing to do with it. If the claims they are making are true they are in charge of the security apparatus and we would be arrested and charged with treason.
Those are serious offenses, like facilitating mass murder, killing and displacement of so many people like what happened in Mpeketoni. There’s no reason why we should be walking free in the county.
When they go to the extent of claiming that our rallies are the ones inciting people, the Mpeketoni attack happened the same day we had our rally in Tononoka, Mombasa. How
could the utterances at Tononoka provide time for those people to prepare their attack? It’s clear they had prepared for a long time, they had trained and amassed arms,
when did they listen to our rally and when did they prepare to launch those attacks?
You can extend that kind of argument: Ruto went there recently, to Mpeketoni, and the same day,
while he was still there, there were more attacks in Lamu and Tana River. Would you use that to link
him to those attacks?
Jubilee needs to be serious with itself. First, in Mpeketoni, the British, Americans and French say it was Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab themselves claimed responsibility for the attacks. Then Uhuru comes
out and say no, it was just local networks. That’s before any investigations have been carried out. He says he knows these people.
If he knows them, then why not just arrest them? If they can bring 15,000 policemen to Uhuru Park and the city to supposedly protect us at our rally, why can’t they flood that place with 100,000 officers?
This government has got its priorities very wrong.
They assumed we were going to march to State House…
QN; Were there threats or plans to march to State House?
RAILA; Nobody ever contemplated that. Seeing the number of GSU, National Youth Service, APs, even
military, deployed around State House tells you how scared they are.
QN; On specific question of KDF withdrawal from Somali, you co-chaired the cabinet committee that approved the incursion.
Obviously now you’ve had a change of mind. But will withdrawal not amount to victory for Al-Shabaab, a surrender to Al-Shabaab demands? Will withdrawal guarantee that Al-
Shabaab will stop attacking Kenya? Will they not become emboldened to attack even more?
RAILA; Kenya is not the only country with troops in Somalia. Uganda, is there. Burundi is there.
Djibouti and Ethiopia are there, and others.
Initially, it was agreed that the countries sharing borders with Somalia would not send troops. That’s why we did not have our troops there. If we remove our troops now, they can be replaced by troops from other countries because it’s now an Amisom operation, funded internationally through the
United Nations, though we are also paying.
When we sat in the National Security Council to take this decision, we looked at our strategic self-interest, because there had been attacks on several border towns, in Mandera, Wajir, Liboi, Garissa; and they even moved into Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa. We saw that our economy was hurting, the tourism industry was being affected very badly. So we
decided that it was necessary for us to protect our borders, secure our boundaries to stop these terrorist elements from coming into our country.
That’s why we called it Operation Linda Nchi.
When you want to deploy troops you need approval of Parliament. When you want to take troops into
another land, you need approval from Parliament.
This was a decision of the National Security Council and I only went to inform Parliament of the decision
that had been taken.
In the course of the operation, it became necessary to pursue Al-Shabaab beyond the border,
particularly to Kismayu which was their main source of supply. Then we had to go to Parliament,
Defense Minister Yusuf Haji and I, to seek approval for deployment of our troops beyond our border.
They did a good job, liberating southern Somalia,liberating Kismayu and so on. That enabled Ugandan troops who were marooned in Mogadishu to get a breather, begin to come out and extend their operations. So our KDF boys did a good job, but this was never supposed to be an indefinite
operation. Our view is that now we need to review it.
Al-Shabaab is weakened, but not defeated. We need to bring our troops back home to secure our
borders and move away because it is almost now an occupation force, and there are some undesirable things that are happening, like controlling the charcoal export trade from Kismayu to the Middle East. It’s giving a very bad image of the country, and this has even been raised in the UN — the charcoal business.
And then our boys are being attacked and killed,and coffins are coming back. Families which are
affected are feeling it. It’s just like how the American people begun to ask why their boys were dying in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and asked they be brought back. We are talking about a timetable for withdrawal of our troops from Somalia.
We can decide when we’ll withdraw and hand over the mission to the Somali National Army. We were
supposed to train the Somalis to take over defense of their own country.
QN; But will withdrawal stop Al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya, knowing very well that they are already so entrenched within our country?
RAILA; When we’re no longer there, the situation will also change, because Al-Shabaab are also saying get your troops out.
QN; Now, Uhuru and Ruto are no strangers to you. You have worked together at various times, whether on the same side or opposite sides. And the public has images of you
being cordial and friendly when you get together. Have things changed
fundamentally in the relationship since you came back? Can you no longer sit together and discuss issues?
RAILA; Nothing has substantially changed. You remember when I came back and was welcomed at Uhuru Park, the big question was what’s the way forward?
What next? Some people wanted to hear only one thing, when would we storm State House, but I
resisted, and some of them were disappointed when they didn’t hear what they wanted to hear.
I told them there’s a way forward, dialogue, and that we are going to talk. Then Uhuru, in his
wisdom the following day at Madaraka Day,responded that he was ready for dialogue. We all said ‘hurrah! that’s good, that’s an avenue’.
But the next day after that, on June 2, I had my team here in this office. Kalonzo, Wetangula and the Cord leadership. We were now discussing how to set up the agenda for dialogue. Before we could announce it, there was that meeting that took a very long time at State House.
Then late afternoon, they said no to dialogue,saying that there are channels available, organs
established by the Constitution. They said if Raila and Kalonzo want, they can come for a cup of tea at
State House. That was spiteful and undermined our quest for dialogue.
After that I could not pick a phone and tell the President I want to come for a cup of tea; that would be ridiculous because we want to discuss very serious issues. As it went on we were talking at each other, so I decided to write formally to the President and put these issues down. I was being answered in public by [National Assembly Majority leader Aden] Duale and [Senate Majority Leader Kithure] Kindiki.
If you write to the Executive, you expect to hear from the Executive, but now you are being answered by the Legislature. Parliament and the
Executive are supposed to be distinct. If I wanted to talk to the Legislature, I would have written to
them. So my letter has not been answered. That response was basically to spite me.
QN; If you really wanted dialogue, could you not have framed it in a better way rather than demands and ultimatums?
RAILA; There were no demands. At Uhuru Park, several issues were raised, and I said I’ve heard you people, I know your problems, we’ll have dialogue with the government. I did not give any ultimatums, but
people started becoming charged and they are the ones who have taken us to where we are.
We started in a very simple and gentle manner because we thought these issues could be discussed. That’s the meaning of dialogue and
you’re under no obligation to accept things proposed by the other side. You give as much as you take, and that will bring down temperatures in
QN; Is the door still open for dialogue after Saba Saba?
RAILA; People said no more dialogue, now we go to referendum. But at that time, they are asking Raila is speaking as who? He’s not a Member of Parliament, just an ordinary citizen. What they are forgetting is that I’m the leader of
the biggest political party in Parliament, ODM. Then leader of the Cord coalition which is the main
opposition grouping. Political parties are provided for in the Constitution that says Kenya is a multi-party state. Then there’s the Political Parties Act which outlines how parties will be organised and
how they function. There’s the funding of parties by government. This office we are sitting in, the rent is paid by the government. How then does someone question my legitimacy, my locus standi?
I’m not a Member of Parliament and neither is Kalonzo. Uhuru is not a Member of Parliament, Ruto
is not a Member of Parliament. When we want to raise these issues of dialogue, how do you raise
them in Parliament because the Executive is not in Parliament, yet it’s the Executive that wields the
instruments of power. We need to talk to the horse directly.
QN; What’s the next step after Saba Saba? You are forming a referendum committee that you said would be all-inclusive? Does that mean it will cut across the political divide?
RAILA; We are inviting people to submit names for inclusion in the committee. We are talking to civil
society, religious groups, and others who want to participate. We are consulting.
The original Saba Saba campaigns, both 1990 and 1997, were successful because they were led by forces that stood above politics.
Civil Society and religious organisations, personalities like Willy Mutunga, Kivutha Kibwana, Davider Lamba, Rev Timothy Njoya,
were key behind the Citizens Coalition and the Ufungamano Initiative.
QN; Do we still have civil society and religious leaders that command respect and standing to drive such
RAILA; I know some of them have burnt their fingers, like the religious groups who took partisan positions
during the constitutional referendum. That undermined the confidence people had in them.
But we are consulting and there’s a number that’s interested. Civil society is very keen.
After 2002, many were sucked into government,but a new group has emerged which is very strong,
and we are talking to them. We’ll be able to put up a mixed group that will oversee this process. Okoa
Kenya movement is not just a Cord affair, but a wider grouping.
“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®
“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®