Saturday, January 10, 2009



By Standard on Saturday Team

Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s language and disposition in the Grand Coalition Government casts the picture of a man who, although he believes his victory was stolen, has resolved to live to fight another day.

But, going by an exclusive end-year-interview he granted The Los Angeles Times, behind the faÁade, there is more to Raila, who is perceived as patient and calculative schemer.

Of interest is his view that President Kibaki listens to him, but his ‘men’ frustrate the implementation of what they agree to carry out.

He spoke about the burden of office and the problems in the coalition: "Things are taking so long because we are running a coalition government. We have brought two partners who were bitter rivals together. First there are fears and suspicions…"

He also spoke about his turbulent past, revealing that Odinga, "has been tear-gassed so many times over the years that he suffers from permanent eye damage."

Asked about his relationship with Kibaki, he responded by pointing a finger at the office of the Head of Civil Service, Mr Francis Muthaura, which his party wants moved to his docket: "It’s fairly positive and cordial. We have weekly meetings in which we compare notes and agree on agendas. We agree most of the time. The problem really is with people you call the president’s men, the powers behind the throne. They try to undermine. You find they try to frustrate implementation. There is an office in the civil service that used to be very powerful . . . permanent secretary of the office of the president. That was the [de facto] prime minister, but headed by a civil servant. He’s still there."

Raila also looks at the protests that broke out after the announcement of the disputed results as a form of peoples’ revolution. "In the history of any country, a time comes when the people cannot tolerate political dictatorship and they rise up to resist forcibly. Many countries have gone through this. America could not tolerate British colonialism. Kenyans rose against the British too. The deaths are the consequences of the people’s revolution. It’s unfortunate, but people were not willing to accept election rigging,’’ he told the LAT journalist Edmund Sanders.

Poll Crisis

He added: "I don’t think it was in our power to stop what happened. Election-rigging was the trigger that set in motion a chain reaction [of grievances] dealing with unresolved disputes and historical injustices…"

He also reinforces his earlier position on the handling of cases against suspects of post-election violence, by blaming it on stolen election and "state-sponsored terrorism.’ He gave the example of a police officer in his Lang’ata constituency who shot seven people in half an hour and has since been promoted. "People who are guilty of serious crimes against humanity need to be punished, irrespective of their positions, then and now. The question has always been who should identify and prosecute. Our view is that law enforcement agencies are compromised. They are themselves implicated. The police commissioner who gave instructions to shoot-to-kill should not be allowed to bring the charges,’’ he said.

The interview, conducted at Mombasa’s Diani Beach, comes against the backdrop of ODM-PNU war on transition team left after Electoral Commission was disbanded, the place of Muthaura’s office in Government, and the contentious new law encroaching on media freedom which Raila’s party has disowned.