Raila roots for a rotational presidency, cites inclusivity

Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (right), Team One Nation national coordinator Maina Njenga (left) and other members address the media at Mr Odinga’s home in Nairobi on January 11, 2021.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kenya has at least 44 tribes with eight regions— Coast, Eastern, North Eastern, Nairobi, Central, Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza.
  • Mr Odinga said the country must be sensitive to the needs of all communities.

ODM leader Raila Odinga yesterday made his strongest pitch yet for rotational presidency, saying it would boost national inclusivity and boost diversity at State House.

Speaking barely two days after President Kenyatta hinted at a possibility of backing his successor from outside the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities in the next General Election since they had both produced Kenya’s only presidents since independence, Mr Odinga said Kenya is a multi-ethnic society, hence the need to be sensitive to the ethnic differences.

See no harm

“In a country like Switzerland, we have what is called a rotating presidency. The presidency moves from one region to the other. In the United States, if a president comes from one region, then the vice-president must come from another region. So I really see no harm with this issue here [in Kenya],” Mr Odinga said when he hosted youth under the banner of Team One Nation, led by Mr Maina Njenga at his Karen home in Nairobi.

Kenya has at least 44 tribes with eight regions— Coast, Eastern, North Eastern, Nairobi, Central, Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza.

Strong reactions

If the presidency were to rotate among the regions, Central and Rift Valley would be locked out in the 2022 election since Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta have all come from the Kikuyu community; while Kenya’s second president, Daniel Moi (1924-2020), who had the longest stint in power at 24 years, came from the Kalenjin community, where Deputy President William Ruto comes from.

The call by the Orange party leader is likely to attract strong reactions from the Ruto camp, which believes Handshake partners — Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga — are out to scuttle his bid.

Mr Odinga yesterday said different countries have dealt with this issue differently and since each and every Kenyan pays taxes, there should be no discrimination against any of them in search of leadership or appointments to different positions.

“Taxes are collected from all regions of this country without discrimination. Therefore, don’t discriminate when it comes to making appointments to positions. Let us look at each and every person as a Kenyan.”

Speaking at the burial of Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi’s mother, Mama Hanna Atsianzale on Sunday, the President dismissed the DP’s call for a hustler-versus-dynasties debate that seeks to lock out established political families from the presidency. “They are talking and saying people are tired with the leadership from this or that family. Well, let them be. If that is your logic, I can also stand here and say that there are two communities that have ruled this nation [and] maybe it’s time to give a chance to the other tribes to lead,” President Kenyatta said, attracting sharp criticisms from his deputy, who accused him of stoking ethnic tensions.

Yesterday, Mr Odinga said the country must be sensitive to the needs of all communities.

“When particular people are there [in leadership], the appointments made favour the people from those communities. If you look at the Jubilee Cabinet of 2013, permanent secretaries and heads of parastatals in the country… I wish somebody in the media can come out and do it and publish it even tomorrow so that Kenyans can see for themselves what we’re talking about,” Mr Odinga said.

“You can’t be talking of being a nationalist but when you have an opportunity, you appoint individuals from your own community.”

He said during that during the grand coalition government led by President Kibaki and himself as Prime Minister between 2008 and 2013, the appointments reflected the face of Kenya. “This was a very different ballgame... We must embrace inclusivity and understand that each and every Kenyan pays taxes.”

Mr Odinga pointed out that through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), Kenya is changing course or starting a fresh one to deal with corruption, inequality, violent elections and exclusion.

New beginning

“We’re starting afresh to enable Kenyans have a new beginning. Majority of Kenyans are poor, basically hustlers and we want to see how we can move our people from this status of poverty to prosperity,” Mr Odinga added.

He pointed out that at independence, there were commitments to remove brutal and inhuman rule of the whites to bring “our own people to lead this country and deal with ignorance, poverty and disease.”

He noted that poverty is still rife and a number of Kenyans can’t access healthcare while others are still ignorant. This can only happen if we change the course and not just by words, but by action.”

Team One Nation national coordinator Maina Njenga said they will criss-cross the country preaching peace and selling the BBI agenda.

“We will work in the 47 counties and help Baba (Mr Odinga) to climb the mountain. Because we appreciate the peace he has brought to this country through his peace pact with President Kenyatta,” Mr Njenga said.

He went on: “We want to preach empowerment, not through wheelbarrows but opportunities.” Other youth leaders in the team — Mr Stanley Muthengi, Mr Dennis Mbanda, Ms Grace Kariuki and Ms Rose Atieno said they want one united country.

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