Raila: Uhuru has his mind in the right place



What you need to know:

  • At independence, Kenya’s economy was similar to that Ghana and South Korea.
  • We want to come up with reforms that will make it possible for this country to transition.

Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga speaks to the Nation about his vision for Kenya and African leadership.

Q: You have been in the trenches for a long time. When you look at where we are now, are you disappointed at how we turned out?

A: Every country has its ups and downs. There are times when a country goes through major challenges. We’ve come from some very dark days in this country but we’ve also seen (good developments). We are in a transitional phase. The process of implementing this (new) constitution was bound to be a major challenge. I would say it is an important phase in our country’s history.

Is it your view that we could have done better if we had a lot less corruption, a more committed leadership and more involved citizens?

Certainly. By and large a number of reforms were introduced (by the Narc government) up to the time when we came up with the new Constitution.

Kenya made more progress during that time, particularly the post-election period. After the 2013 elections, the new government had the responsibility to implement the new Constitution. Unfortunately, it came into power against the background of the ICC. In other words, it was coming into power in a crisis, so, that crisis itself, in my view, was a major challenge to the incoming government. The fight against corruption had taken off very well in the previous government but then some people came up with the idea of creating a war chest to fight the ICC, and that in my view is how corruption once again found its way.

What is your vision for the country? What kind of country would be a fitting legacy to your long life of leadership and struggle?

Kenya has got peers in development against which we can benchmark. At independence, Kenya’s economy was similar to that Ghana and South Korea.

Now, 56 years later, the size of South Korea’s economy is almost 40 times larger than that of Kenya. What did the Koreans do right that we got wrong? They came up with fundamental transformation of lives in the rural areas.

And then they also went and invested in industrialisation using the resources that they had themselves … this is after they had spent a lot of money training the people to impart skills to them so that the people became wealth creators and the government also brought in foreign investment into the country and they created an enabling environment that made it attractive for foreigners to come and invest in Korea, either directly by themselves or through joint ventures with the Korean people.

All this put together made it possible for Korea to take that leap from a Third World to a First World (country). I don’t think that African countries have an excuse. It is basically poor leadership that has driven Africa to where it is today.

Does Africa have better leadership today than it did in the 1960s?

Of course there are. I don’t think that African countries are uniform. Countries like Ghana, which in my view has got very progressive leadership, Ethiopia is growing pretty fast today. There are several African countries which have been doing well.

Does Kenya have that kind of leadership today?

The government which now is in power, and there are internal contradictions…

I think (President Kenyatta) has got his mind in the right place.

Do you think that there is a chance that in 2022, Kenya will get the kind of leadership that has positioned Ghana and all these other countries favourably?

I don’t want to talk about 2022.

Well, in the near future?

President Kenyatta and I have said we don’t want to talk about 2022. We want to come up with reforms that will make it possible for this country to transition. But if we have proper visionary leadership that some of these countries have had there is no reason why we cannot transition to where we rightfully belong.

What are you and the President doing to ensure that we have the right leadership this time round?

We don’t want to pick leadership. We want to create a conducive environment so that Kenyans can get proper leadership. So you create a government structure that will ensure that nobody can abuse power. You know… that there are limits to abusive power, and that is what BBI is aimed at achieving.