NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi during a political campaign in Ruiru, Kiambu on 4th July, 2017. Picture; Beverlyne Musili
National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga reached out to Central Kenya residents, telling them they had nothing to fear about his presidency and backing his assurances with his vision to uplift the region.
Raila used yesterday’s visit to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kiambu County to confront a perception his opponents have exploited to undermine his bid for high office — that he was on a revenge mission to weaken the region’s economic activity.
Raila, who has fared badly in the region in his past presidential bids of 1997, 2007 and 2013, regretted that his rivals had demonised him as one who would stoke anarchy and implement policies that would hurt businesses and agricultural economies that the region’s residents rely on.
On the contrary, the NASA presidential candidate said, his manifesto recognised the importance of national unity, adding that should he be elected president, he would protect all Kenyans regardless of their backgrounds.
NASA’s policies on reviving the coffee and tea sectors would extend to the region, Raila explained, and “there is no reason why Githunguri Dairies Co-operative Society should not be among the first to benefit when we take over”.
Raila sought to debunk the myth of historical rivalry between the Luo and Kikuyu communities, over which critics claim he would be inclined to settle scores, recalling that his late father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, agitated for the release of the late President Jomo Kenyatta from detention before the country could be granted independence.
“In 1958, my father spoke in Parliament, which had 65 Europeans and eight Africans, telling them that the continued incarceration of Kenyatta and the other Kapenguria Six was hurting the conscience of Kenyans,” he said.
Raila further noted that the late Jaramogi coined a phrase – ‘Kenyatta na Uhuru’ – and rallied Kenyans to support the call to release Kenyatta from prison.
And in 2002, Raila said he campaigned for President Kibaki.
“In 2002, I said ‘Kibaki Tosha’ and when he was hurt, I took over and campaigned for him throughout the country until we beat Kanu whose candidate was Uhuru. I supported Kibaki knowing well that he was a Kikuyu but above all, a Kenyan,” Raila said.
He accused his rivals of casting him as a person who hated the Kikuyu.
“After we won the 2002 elections with Kibaki, I was called ‘Mutongoria njamba’ (strong leader) by the Central Kenya people. How come now I am being referred to as ‘Kimundu kiguruki’ (mad man)?,” Raila posed.
He said he had been brotherly towards President Uhuru Kenyatta because of their past and that he also had ties with the community through marriage.
“I always refer to Uhuru as my younger brother because of our past. Our two families are friends and even my late son Fidel was married to a woman from this region. I cannot harm my in-laws,” he said.
Raila, who was warmly received by residents of Kiambu County, which has 1.1 million registered voters, pleaded with them to elect him come August 8, saying all he was interested in was fixing the country, which he said was in a mess. He promised residents that he would ensure that Kikuyu community interests were well taken care of and protected.
Raila said he had not discriminated against the region in appointments during his tenure in Government or in his presidential campaign and gave examples of some of the appointees.
Before he left for Kiambu, Raila had addressed a press conference in Nairobi, where he laid out his pledges for the region.
“We must make Kenyans understand there are 43 different communities; none should feel inferior or superior to the other. As your president, I will ensure every Kenyan is safe. I will ensure national unity. I am not a dictator.”
He added: “One of our main messages over the past four years and going into the election in August is inclusion and economic empowerment. We have spoken repeatedly of the commitment of NASA to building a strong and united country in which everyone feels respected. That commitment is and will remain strong and enduring.”
The Opposition alliance is promising to revive the coffee and tea industries and also come up with a fund targeting co-operative societies should it ascend to power on August 8. He said NASA would also facilitate trade between people by shifting focus from infrastructural development to county and rural roads, which had been neglected over the last four years.
“We also intend to implement a mass transit project interconnecting all counties. Traders from Kiambu should be able to reach Kisumu or Kisii in the morning and return to Kiambu in the evening if they so feel like.”
He asked Kenyans to shun tribalism and elect an individual not because of his tribe but based on his proven track record of reforms and development.
“Kenya is one nation of 43 tribes. But let us shun the notion that ‘your person’ must be at the helm for you to benefit. We all face similar problems. Let us live in peace as elections will come and go but Kenya will remain,” Raila said.
He accused Jubilee of failing to deliver on the promises they made to Kenyans, adding that the time was ripe for them to pack up and go home.
Raila said NASA was best placed to fix the country’s problems like the current food insecurity, high cost of living, unemployment and corruption.
“Look at the high cost of basic commodities. This affects all, regardless of ethnic background,” Raila said.
He pointed out that Jubilee’s main undoing was corruption and if left to continue in power, the country would never solve the problems.
“We don’t know where the Eurobond money went. In the National Youth Service scandal, Sh20 billion was stolen while one family squandered billions during the Afya House scandal,” Raila said.