Raila Odinga is a Genuine Leader
Two months ago I was on Kameme FM discussing issues around the ICC Kenyan situation when an interesting thing happened. Uhuru Kenyatta called into the show and asked me 11 questions, especially as regards positions that I have held that have been contrary to his. However one of the more memorable comments he made was that I must be careful about my new friend, Raila Odinga. He advised me that this man cannot be trusted and that I should be careful in putting too much faith in the man.
The Deputy Prime Minister was voicing something that has been voiced by even trusted friends around me who are concerned that I am leaning more towards Raila Odinga politically. Issues that keep coming up include whether a Raila-led government would socio-economically disenfranchise certain regions from benefiting from his government; whether he was behind the ’41 vs 1′ philosophy that ODM is believed to have rolled out as its campaign strategy in 2007; whether he was involved in planning for the kikuyu-targeted post election violence, etc.
Uhuru Kenyatta touched on some of these fears in all the 11 questions he asked me. I did not vote for Raila Odinga in 2007; in fact I spent a lot of effort circulating my thoughts about why I believed that Raila Odinga should not be President of Kenya. My primary fear of a Raila presidency was that the man was too powerful a force, and would be bad for Kenya’s democracy.
I also saw a man willing to do anything to win, and ready to sacrifice Kenya’s existence, rather than lose. My justification was that his entire campaign seemed to be driven by negative energy, revenge and hatred. I also argued that if he could cause so much trouble to an incumbent and his entire government machinery when only a mere MP (then); what could he do with the powers of a President, especially considering the constitution we had then.
My opinion of Raila Odinga has changed gradually since 2008, especially once I started getting involved in inter-ethnic discussion forums through KikuyusforChange. Unlike most of my fellow Kenyans from Central province I have had occasion to politically engage opinion leaders from the regions where the other four million Kenyans who voted for Raila in 2007 come from. In these interactions I have learnt many things, including how the leaders from amongst the four million of us who voted for Kibaki actually build Raila Odinga’s political career whenever they deal with him contemptuously.
In the close to four years since 2008 I have watched Raila work very hard to put the mistakes he might have made in 2007 behind him, especially that of being associated with a team that seemed to isolate one community from the others, and to incite those others against it for political gain.
I have understood how humbling it has been for him to accept what is essentially a powerless office, in a hostile government, and to understudy a president who was a bitter rival. I have seen a man who has realised that Kenyans are looking for a positive narrative; that any presidential candidate who hopes to win must speak to Kenyans as Kenyans; not in units of their religions, demographics, genders or tribes. I have seen a man who has accepted that Kenyans want someone who will sincerely seek to unite rather than divide Kenya, and who is striving to be this candidate.
What I have seen has impressed me and with the new constitution that makes it easy to manage any President, my vote has gone to Raila. But I am worried I could be wrong.
The reports that Raila Odinga could be seeking ways to reconcile with William Ruto concern me because I belong to the group that agrees with Moreno Ocampo, that William Ruto bears substantial responsibility for what happened in Rift Valley in 2007. I also find Ruto extremely unapologetic about all the chaos, and his comments on this terrible time border on the absurd; from it looking like a movie, to gas cylinder bursts. This is what made me wonder how Uhuru Kenyatta ever agreed to work with him in any political alliance.
However of greater concern to me is the suggestion that Raila has offered to use his international networks to save William Ruto from the ICC process; the same way as he helped Henry Kosgey! The idea that someone can remove someone else from the ICC process suggests that it is possible for such a person to put someone else into such a process.
This is a dangerous implication when viewed in the context of suggestions from Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies that their leader is in the ICC because Raila put him there! If this were true I would feel very silly after all the work I have done in support of the ICC to-date.
It would also mean that what I have seen happening to Raila Odinga in the last four years was not genuine.