What you need to know:
- Mr Odinga said the other option for President Kenyatta would be an appointment as a diplomat in the African Union.
- Former Prime Minister pledges to strengthen ties between Kenya and the UK if he’s elected President
Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga has said he will retain President Kenyatta as an adviser and renegotiate Kenya’s loans should he form the next government.
Mr Odinga, who is competing with Deputy President William Ruto in the August 9 presidential polls, said there is a lot President Kenyatta can do.
“I’m looking forward to his guidance on different matters such as business, diplomacy, and others,” Mr Odinga told BBC in an interview. He is on a 10-day tour of the United Kingdom.
Mr Odinga said he will be consulting Mr Kenyatta the same way the Head of State has been seeking advice from him during his second term in office.
He said the other option for President Kenyatta would be an appointment as a diplomat in the African Union. This could fuel speculation that Mr Odinga may hand the retiring President an active role in his government.
There have been reports that President Kenyatta could be named Prime Minister in the event of a constitutional change through the Building Bridges Initiative. But President Kenyatta has in the past insisted he will head into retirement. The constitution doesn’t bar him from holding any other position if he is appointed.
Meanwhile, Mr Odinga has said he will renegotiate short-term commercial loans with punitive interest rates to save Kenya’s economy from collapse should he be elected President.
Mr Odinga said repayment of short-term commercial loans takes up a huge chunk of Kenya’s budget at a time when the country is reeling under a Sh8.4 trillion debt portfolio.
Seeking favourable terms for such loans, he said, would help the country service the debts and, at the same time, invest more money in the economy.
“We have two categories of loans but the short-term commercial debts with shorter times of repayment and higher interest rates are the ones that are punitive and we intend to find a way of renegotiating the repayment rates,” said Mr Odinga. He was speaking during a meeting with UK MPs at the House of Commons led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s trade envoy to Kenya, Ms Theodora Clarke.
The ODM party leader said the economy had been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic and that it needed to be helped back on its feet.
“Reconstruction is going to be a major challenge post-election. The country incurred huge debts which is a challenge that needs to be dealt with going forward,” Mr Odinga said.
He pledged to strengthen ties with the UK, which is a major trading partner, as there are opportunities to be harnessed in trade and agriculture. He noted that Kenya is the gateway to the East African region in terms of trade. He urged the UK to invest more in agricultural production in Kenya instead of importing raw materials.
Mr Odinga promised to unify the country ahead of the polls and expressed hope that the outcome would not be contentious.
The former Prime Minister said the UK has more than one million unfilled job opportunities.
“I promise to invest in skills development and technical training to expand our capacity to export labour,” said Mr Odinga.
On enhancing regional trade, he said Kenya would work to ensure stability in the Horn of Africa to harness the region’s economic potential.