Raila Odinga targets graft in government as he heightens his 2017 campaign

ODM leader Raila Odinga at Mashuru grounds in Kajiado County on June 26, 2015. PHOTO | ANN KAMONI

What you need to know:

  • Odinga’s heightened political activities appear to have rattled the government.
  • Cord leader says he will not relent in his war against corruption even as Jubilee says his only concern is to win favour with the Americans.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has heightened political activity and attacks on Jubilee government over corruption in what is seen as a precursor for the 2017 presidential campaign against President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mr Odinga has for the last one week kept a neck-to-neck presence with President Uhuru Kenyatta on the news cycle, accusing the Jubilee government of failing to do enough to battle the vice and vowing to stay put on his campaign against the Jubilee administration.

The two leaders, for instance, attended separate cultural events on Friday in Kajiado County in what is seen as an attempt by each to keep the vote from the region under their wing. State House and Mr Odinga have also traded words over the National Youth Service saga over alleged irregularities on tendering and payments — including an attempt by fraudsters to steal Sh826 million.

NYS has been one of the government’s key successes with projects in Nairobi’s Kibera and other slums.

And Jubilee is now accusing the Mr Odinga of running a campaign of hate keen to portray it as corrupt ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit next month.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale was the first to say that Cord leader Raila Odinga’s sustained campaign against graft was not sincere and only motivated by Mr Obama’s coming.

Mr Duale said Mr Odinga’s aim is to secure an audience with the US leader, who has Kenyan roots.

“We understand that the opposition wants President Obama to see that the government is adversely affected by corruption,” Mr Duale claimed.

Mr Duale said nothing other than envy was motivating the opposition chief is his “newfound criticism of government”.

“Mr Odinga is not happy at the fact that Kenya has transformed. The endorsement we recently got from a delegation of officials from the US on the outlook of the economy and governance has not sat down well with him,” he said, adding that Mr Odinga wants to set the agenda. 

On Saturday, Mr Odinga said that nothing —  not even President Obama’s high profile visit —  would stop him from talking about what he considers as entrenched corruption.

“The idea that there is corruption in government is acknowledged even by the government itself. None other than President Uhuru Kenyatta has acknowledged that corruption has taken roots in the Office of the President. The corruption list was presented to parliament by the president himself, another acknowledgement that corruption exists,” Mr Odinga told the Sunday Nation through his spokesman Denis Onyango.

He said said he differed with the government in the demand that all corruption cases and suspects be treated equally under the law.

“This crusade against corruption began long before president Obama announced plans to visit Kenya,” Mr Onyango said.

SERIES OF REACTIONS

Accusing Jubilee of trying to use President Obama’s and the Pope’s visit to cover up corruption, adding that the push would continue even after the visitors leave.

Mr Odinga‘s heightened political activities has triggered a series of reactions from the government side.

A State House spokesman later added his voice to Mr Duale’s remarks adding that the anti-corruption crusade was meant to keep the former premier relevant in a “fast changing political terrain.”

“Raila Odinga’s options are wearing thin. His pet project, the Constitution was resolved by Kenyans in 2010. The attempts to rebrand it into a referendum have hit headwinds with the inability to raise the one million signature threshold so he has turned to corruption,” Mr Munyori Buku, senior communications director at State House said.

In a span of two weeks, Mr Odinga has put the government of President Kenyatta to its defence on an array of issues prompting a response from the Deputy President William Ruto that the opposing was busy “manufacturing” scandals in government with a view to distracting it from work.

From calling for the suspension of Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru to demanding the Weston Hotel in Nairobi associated with Mr Ruto be demolished claiming it is built on public land, Mr Odinga has not given Jubilee a breathing space.

On Saturday, Mr Odinga showed no sign of relenting.

The Cord principal demanded that, “He (Mr Kenyatta) revokes the title deed for the Weston Hotel and begins prosecution of those who grabbed the land.”

He also wants that President Kenyatta should authorise “an independent audit of the ministry of Devolution’s NYS activities and expenditures and also suspends Ms Waiguru to allow the investigations”.
He said the issues had come from government and there was no basis to blame the Opposition. 

State House, however, maintained in a statement to Sunday Nation that President Kenyatta’s focus in the war on corruption was steadfast as proved by recent action against alleged corrupt individuals, including five cabinet secretaries.

'PROPAGANDA'

“The corrupt officials in government are an endangered species. And that is as it should be,” said Mr Buku. “These are times Raila Odinga cannot comprehend. His rhetoric is, therefore, understandable.”

Mr Buku charged that Mr Odinga had failed to battle corruption when he was PM. 

And Mr Duale said that the dragging Ms Waiguru and Mr Ruto in scandals was propaganda advanced to divert the attention of the government from its development agenda.

In his attack, Mr Duale said the political move by the Cord leaders was cheap “in the era of progressive development politics.”

“It is sad for these leaders to try and paint a bad image for the county for the sake of the Americans to hear. For the sake of patriotism, these leaders should be at the forefront to defend the national values, culture and religion and not the continuous bickering,” said Mr Duale.

Mr Odinga is exploiting government failures with the increasing official corruption in government forming a major pillar of his anti-government crusade as he moves to rally Kenyans against a graft prone administration.

The handling of the Land Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu’s corruption case by the Jubilee administration has also formed a political weakness which the opposition is exploiting as they press on with an attempt to make President Kenyatta a one term President.

His back-to-back rallies in different parts of the country has also raise political temperatures.

Last week, Mr Ruto chided the opposition for what he referred to as putting the country on electioneering only to address a series of rallies this week.

Some observers reckon that activities by the ODM boss had pushed President Kenyatta and his deputy from their “comfort’ zones.”

On Friday, the Jubilee brigade split into two, with Mr Kenyatta addressing a rally in Kajiado County while Ruto was in Narok County.

The visits which coincided with another by Mr Odinga at Mashuuru grounds, Kajiado East constituency points to the high stakes each of the camps attaches to the Maa votes.

“Let us maintain the momentum until we unseat the jubilee government in 2017 so we can bring more money to the counties to help in roads and health especially in areas that need help like Maasai” Mr Odinga said.

ODM Secretary for Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi accuses the Jubilee of trooping to Kajiado on learning of their planned trip.

ODM Director of elections and campaigns Junet Mohamed told the Sunday Nation that they are on an overdrive to rejuvenate the party by visiting as many regions as possible in preparation for the next elections.

Additional Reporting by Bozo Jenje

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