Raila writes to Uhuru Asking him to Welcome the National Dialogue

By BERNARD NAMUNANE, June 20th 2014, Daily Nation

Cord leader Raila Odinga has written to President Uhuru Kenyatta, assuring him that he is not interested in grabbing power.

Mr Odinga said he had accepted the results of the General Election and that he was ready to play his role in the opposition.

Addressing President Kenyatta as “my brother”, Mr Odinga was categorical that he neither held a grudge over the way he lost in the last elections nor would he use the clamour for dialogue to seek a position in government.

He said Cord’s intention was to use the national dialogue to debate and find solutions to the avalanche of problems he warned “may tear the country apart if not immediately addressed”.

The former Prime Minister also assured the Head of State of his support in the war against terror and criminal gangs, which he said had taken an upper hand in parts of the country, leading to the killing of 65 people in Mpeketoni, Lamu.

“I want to assure your Excellency that we hold no grudges nor do we want to interfere with your tenure and that of the Jubilee administration as the President and the Government of the Republic of Kenya,” he said in the letter dated June 20.

He said he and other Cord leaders have been holding peaceful rallies as a way of engaging the people in an open and public discourse “on how we can make Kenya great and prosperous; a free nation, a people-liberated and an independent country in the international community of nations”.

It appears Mr Odinga’s move is intended to cool political temperatures that have risen in recent days following his return three weeks ago from a three-week stay in the United States.

The letter comes in the wake of growing tension in the country, triggered by terror and criminal attacks on the one hand and a heightened political mood arising from the clamour for national dialogue.

POLITICAL REASONS

While Cord has insisted that it is the only way to end the current “crisis”, Jubilee MPs have argued that the opposition was using the push for the conference for political reasons — to acquire power outside the ballot.

President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have argued that some of the issues that Cord wants discussed can be resolved through Parliament and warned that while they hold forte at State House, they were open to talking over “a cup of tea” with their rivals.

But Mr Odinga argued the issues at hand were beyond the floor of the House, requiring both sides of the political divide and other stakeholders to resolve in a “structured” way.

“We have a constitutional mandate as the opposition in Parliament and as a coalition of political parties. However, the problems and challenges facing the country cannot all be addressed as an exercise of law-making or oversight. Nor can they be resolved on the basis of the classical interplay between the three arms of government,” he said.

Quoting Isaiah 1:18, he said great leaders in the world who chose the path of national dialogue in times of crisis emerged victorious.

But in Friday’s letter, he repeated that there were five critical issues afflicting the country and which needed to be discussed to guarantee Kenya’s security and prosperity.

“I seek no office or reward. So I offer the hand of peace and an olive branch so that we may dwell in unity, peace and liberty and in happiness and prosperity,” said Mr Odinga in the letter.

The five points Mr Odinga wants discussed are inclusivity and national unity, devolution, corruption, the electoral process and national security.

He enumerated the incidents that have called into question the state of the country’s national security, among them the attacks in Mpeketoni, Likoni, Diani, Mwembe Tayari, Thika Road and Gikomba in which more than 100 people had been killed.

“To deal with this sequel of terror and its fatal and devastating effects, the nation must sit and dialogue together and in unison combat terror and other invasions to our peace, prosperity and the rule of law,” he said.

He called for the withdrawal of the Kenya Defence Forces from Somalia.

The Cord leader said corruption had manifested itself in the payment of Sh1.4 billion for Anglo Leasing type contracts and questions surrounding the standard gauge railway line and the laptops project for primary schools. “Major questions are being raised about the probity and accountability of several pork-barrel and ‘sweetheart’ deals in the energy, oil, mining and agricultural sectors,” he said.

On the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, he said: “It is not my wish to contest the results of the presidential elections held in 2013. Rather, I want the power and might of the ballot exercised and cast in freely contested democratic elections.”

There was a mixed reaction to Mr Odinga’s overtures from President Kenyatta’s allies, with Starehe MP Maina Kamanda saying the move would help cool tension in the country.

“That’s all he (Mr Odinga) was required to do. It shouldn’t have taken him rallies to ask the President to sit down and talk. I know the President will discuss the issues with him,” said Mr Kamanda.

However, Prof Kithure Kindiki and Mr Aden Duale, majority leaders of the Senate and the National Assembly respectively, said there was no reason for dialogue.

They said what Mr Odinga was asking for was addressed competently in the Legislature “where Cord is well-represented, and by constitutional bodies”.

“The government does not work under the supervision of Mr Odinga. Jubilee is charged with the mandate to govern, while Cord is charged with the opposition duty,” they said in a joint statement.

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