By Ajong Mbapndah L
As the countdown narrows to the August 8 Presidential elections in Kenya, the main gladiators, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition challenger Raila Odinga are making last minute pitches to boast chances of victory. To frontline Raila Odinga and NASA backer Samuel Odinga, one of the core ingredients to guarantee victory for his candidate is a massive voters turn out as it will complicate and minimize any attempts to rig the vote.
Omwenga, President and CEO of Intrepid Investment Services International, believes that with the kind of alternative leadership that Raila and NASA offer Kenya, the strong presence of international election observers, the growing number of Kenyans willing to vote on programs and not just tribal lines, the opposition maybe at the verge of creating history.
Thanks for accepting the upcoming elections in Kenya for us, it is Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga round two, how important is this election for Kenyans?
This election is very important for several reasons chief among them being it’s the second time after the promulgation of our new Constitution back in 2010. Kenyans will have an opportunity to elect leadership in an election that’s free, open and transparent, which was not the case in the first election following the promulgation that took place in 2013. As AfriCOG noted in its attached report, the period leading up to that election, which was marked by the implementation of a host of new, progressive reforms and the promulgation of an internationally lauded constitution, was infused with hope. The 2013 election was meant to usher in a new era in electoral politics, one that made a clean break from the often chaotic, widely mistrusted and violent elections of the past.
Unfortunately, however, the process was marred by a series of administrative, technical and political irregularities, which together cast significant doubt on the final results.
How prepared is the country for the elections, are the Institutions in place strong enough to guarantee free and fair elections?
The country is as prepared as it can be under these circumstances.
The opposition, led by Raila Odinga, has been relentless in fighting the system and the powers that to ensure we have free and fair elections but our efforts have been met with all manner of resistance from those who stand to gain from the imperfect system in place. The best we have been able to do thus far, is to at least have a new Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as well as challenging a number of actions in court to prevent rigging. A number of these cases we won, giving us some hope while others we have not, leaving intact mechanisms by which rigging can be done but we have contingencies to stop even that from happening—but we’ll need some cooperation by IEBC.
What did you make of the recent Presidential debate done in the absence of incumbent President Raila Odinga, what did the debate mean for democratic progress in Kenya and do you see any impact on the outcome of the race?
You can read about my views on this in my column Failure to attend debate enough reason to vote Uhuru out where, in a nutshell, I make the case it was disrespectful of voters for Uhuru not to show up for the debate, but more importantly, it was an admission he had no answers and therefore could not answer tough questions about his failed government, which were certain to be asked at the debate.
Put another way, Uhuru’s not showing up as an admission he cannot defend the abysmal record of his government, he can’t explain the unprecedented mega-corruption of his government, he can’t explain the colossal debt he has straddled all living Kenyans and those yet unborn with much of the borrowed money already stolen, he can’t explain the record high unemployment, especially among the youth and these are just but a few hot issues Uhuru knew he couldn’t handle and the real reason he opted not to show up.
For his part, Raila showed up and not only made his case why he still is the man to beat, he also showed his humility and readiness to lead despite all that he has endured, including years of detention and torture and at least twice being rigged out of a presidency he clearly won.
Can you shed some light on the opposition platform that Mr. Raila Odinga is running on, should he win, what will his Administration look like, what will he offer Kenyans in contrast to the work that the current Administration of Uhuru Kenyatta has done?
Raila and NASA are running on a message of hope and change. The NASA manifesto lays out the agenda Raila and NASA will embark on implementing from Day 1 and one can access and review it here
While there are a number of things Raila and NASA will embark on from Day 1 as priorities, topping that list is addressing the question of cereals shortage, particularly maize-flour (unga), which we believe was a shortage created by cartels in Kenya to import the flour but has now backfired creating a crisis this current government cannot fix as they’re beholden to the same cartel; only Raila and NASA can fix the problem and have a plan ready to implement upon being sworn into office.
Closely following resolving the unga problem, Raila and NASA intend to seek immediate rent relief for families unable to meet their rent obligations owing to a number of conditions Jubilee allowed to foster in their five years in office. Ditto transport costs that have skyrocketed but Raila and NASA have a plan to normalize the costs.
In case Mr Odinga is defeated in the elections, will he be willing to concede and accept the verdict from the polls?
Raila has stated he concede if the voters so speak in an open, fair and transparent election.
What role do you think tribal sentiments could play in the upcoming elections?
Tribalism is part of Kenyan political DNA.As in the past, current political alliances have been and continue to be made along ethnic lines. The Jubilee alliance of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto is backed by the Kikuyus and the Kalenjins. The opposition National Alliance (NASA) is a union of tribes led by Mr. Odinga (Luo), Kalonzo Musyoka (Kamba), Moses Wetangula and Musalia Mudavadi (Luhyas) and Isaac Ruto (Kalenjin—those not with the other Ruto.
That being said, the Kikuyu tribe are notorious in voting for only their own in the scale of 95% plus but Raila and NASA hope to change that pattern this time, owing to more and greater disillusionment among the Kikuyus with their own having been in office as president all these many decades with nothing to show for them individually, even as individuals from their community and their progeny have done extremely well. This, coupled with a younger generation that doesn’t have the tribal indoctrination as were their parents and older generation, we might see an ever-slight change in these tribalistic tendencies when it comes to voting, something that already happened among other tribes such as the Kisiis and Luhyas who are very generous in their vote, giving it to those who win their heads than merely being one of their own.
When people hear elections in Kenya, many think of the 2007 post-election violence, did Kenya learn the lesson and is it safe to say Africa and the world will not be treated to another post electoral horror show irrespective of the outcome?
All I can tell you, at least from Raila and NASA perspective, being one of the volunteers involved in the efforts, a lot has been done both publicly and behind the scenes to make sure we have credible elections and therefore avoid any prospect for violence.
It is our prayer and hope that that is the case and the presence of a swarm of international observers in the country give us more hope that, that indeed, will be the case.
Thanks for sharing your perspectives Mr Omwenga, any last word to Kenyans at large in the final stages of this election?
Yes. We and by that I mean those of us who have been involved in Kenyan politics as progressives have done much to bring about democratic growth and maturity in the country. In 2002, the country was at a cross-road and we chose the path of progress by rejecting status quo and extension of Moi era.
Unfortunately, our journey to a better Kenya was short-lived as we got derailed by what happened in late 2007 and early 2008 with the eruption of post-election violence that nearly plunged our country into a civil war. I was home for that election and remember fearing for my life as we made our way to the airport so I can return to the United States and lobby as we did to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, which we did.
I and all those involved wish not to have to do that again.
Much has been said about the various rigging schemes we have uncovered in recent times and even to this day but, I can say, our relentless efforts to expose the rigging schemes while going to court to prevent actions that would be ideal opportunities for rigging, what’s now left is the ultimate weapon against rigging and that is, voters showing up and overwhelmingly voting for Raila and NASA.
We believe if this happens, there’s nothing Uhuru or Jubilee can do to rig; they will see the writing on the wall and simply abandon the idea and this will be true even among their most reckless bent on rigging by any means and at any cost, including loss of lives.
So, the last word is for those Kenyans on the ground registered to vote, please go vote on Tuesday; if you’re not registered, take or have at least one person to vote for Raila and NASA but, better yet, take or have as many people go vote on Tuesday for Raila and NASA and then let’s all sit back and watch as history is being made if the multitudes we expect show up and vote.