Raila blasts CS murkomen over 'reckless' remarks, apologises to Rwanda

Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga addressing mourners during the burial service of former MP Kanduyi Lawrence Sifuna at Siritanyi Primary School in Bungoma County on December 16, 2023. 

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has offered an apology to Rwanda over Transport Cabinet Secretary (CS) Kipchumba Murkomen's controversial remarks faulting Kigali’s governance style, terming it as ‘undiplomatic language’.

Mr Odinga in a statement, called out the CS saying his statements appearing to criticize President Paul Kagame’s leadership style as well as referring to the size of the country, is unwarranted.

“Yesterday (Monday), we opened another war with Rwanda through a cabinet secretary using intemperate and undiplomatic language against this friendly neighbouring member of the East African Community,” Mr Odinga censured the CS.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader also took issue with the loose talk by the senior staff official about a friendly nation, unprovoked.

“To our Rwandese brothers and sisters, we apologise on the sins of a regime intoxicated by power and corruption.  The coarse language used against the great country and friendly people of Rwanda is most unfortunate, “faulted Mr Odinga, wading on matter that has elicited mixed reactions among Kenyans.

CS Murkomen while appearing on Citizen TV night show on Monday, said Kenya should not be compared to Rwanda in terms of development, arguing that while Nairobi is a democratic nation, Kigali is an autocracy where the president has the final say.

“Rwanda is not like Kenya. Rwanda is an autocracy and there whatever the President says is the law,” said Mr Murkomen, as his sentiment rattled Kenyans who have warned of a brewing diplomatic tiff if not managed.

Although Mr Murkomen insists his sentiments have been taken out of context, the comparison of the size of Rwanda has infuriated Kenyans with some leaders calling for the training of the CS and other top-ranking officials on diplomatic etiquette. 

According to Mr Odinga, Mr Murkomen was off in his size utterances, noting that Rwanda is the size of Switzerland and is bigger than Singapore.

To Mr Odinga, “it is not the size that makes nations but the vision and leadership.”

He argues that Statecraft and diplomacy require a different and more sophisticated etiquette.

“As a party, we are concerned and disturbed by the direction Kenya Kwanza regime is taking on the global stage. Our country will pay a steep price for this Kenya Kwanza recklessness,” he warned.

Mr Odinga stressed that the East African Community countries are not just Kenya’s neighbours but the people are our brothers and sisters.

He added, “The EAC countries are also our biggest and most important trading partners in the whole world. Since Kenya’s independence, successive administrations have always nurtured this most important relationship. “

He recounted that the forefathers'' dreams carefully and safely navigated around many challenges that could injure the EAC relationship.

Noting that since the resumption of the East African Community, as it exists today, the relationship has generally been on an upward trajectory.

“Unfortunately, since Kenya Kwanza came to power, matters have taken a turn for the worse. Kenyans realized that there is something wrong with the relationship between us and our East African neighbours when we celebrated the significant milestone of 60 years since independence,” he state 

Mr Odinga expresses concern that none of the neighbouring EAC countries were represented at the level of President, Vice President, or Prime Minister as would have been expected in such a significant occasion that has been the tradition until we have taken it for granted.

“We must tell Kenyans that our neighbours are not to blame for this negative development in our relationship,” stated Mr Odinga.

However, during President William Ruto’s joint media briefing over the weekend, he sought to set the record straight that none of the regional leaders was invited to the event.

But Mr Odinga has now warned that Kenya Kwanza is failing the diplomacy test, and the country in the process.

Just like Rwanda, the opposition leader has also weighed in on the Kenya Uganda relations, especially over the oil export saga.

“Currently Uganda has been forced to go to the High Court in Kenya through its Uganda Petroleum Company to challenge a formula instigated by the Kenya Kwanza cartel that forces the sovereign state of Uganda to have its petroleum products transiting through Kenya to pay a "middleman" fee,” he stated.

He continued, “Uganda is now forced to desperately seek relief through our Court system to protect itself from the greed of the Ruto regime.”

He argues that Uganda's right to access the sea as a landlocked country is recognized and protected by several international agreements and conventions.

He cited four key international instruments that uphold this right as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which recognizes the rights of landlocked countries to have access to and from the sea.

Specifically, Article 125 of UNCLOS establishes the right of landlocked states to transit through the territory of coastal states to access and use the sea.

Others are the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which ensures that treaties are binding on all parties involved and provides a framework for resolving disputes between states.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolutions, which has adopted several resolutions that emphasize the rights of landlocked countries, such as Resolution 69/5, for example, reaffirms the importance of ensuring unimpeded access to and from the sea for landlocked countries and calls on all states to respect and support these rights.

And finally, the African Union Convention on Maritime Transport recognizes the rights of landlocked countries to access and use the sea through the territories of transit countries.

He warns that the actions of the Kenya Kwanza undermine the letter and the spirit of the EAC treaty.