The Kenya Forum | Raila Odinga's Washington Speech Was A Huge Disappointment - The Kenya Forum
More by Correspondent

Raila Odinga’s Washington Speech Was A Huge Disappointment


Earlier last week, Raila Odinga was hosted at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

I listened with interest to his speech. It raised more troubling questions for me than answers. My overall conclusion from the session was that Raila makes a great critique of the Government without providing any tangible alternative agenda. His speech in Washington DC was underwhelming; high on ideals but low on substance.


On the political front, it appears to me that Raila is trying to solve a political question using legal means. This will not work. Justice David Maraga’s ruling on September 1st for a rerun of the election was ground-breaking for Kenyan legal jurisprudence.

However it cannot replace the urgent need for a political solution to the current crisis in Kenya. Raila and Uhuru Kenyatta have to find a political solution to the problem.

Both politicians have adopted a brinkmanship style to their politics which offers little room for compromise. They have not sought to rein in overzealous political loyalists that lacerate any hope for a political solution to the two bungled elections.

On the diplomatic arena, Raila’s criticism of Ambassador Godec needs to be challenged. It is not clear to me how he expects the American ambassador in Kenya to openly advocate for a third election without appearing to engage in undermining the Judiciary (with court cases pending and wider issues of sub judice).

The ambassador will also appear like a foreign power meddling in Kenya’s internal politics. He might even be construed as a biased mzungu diplomat rooting to undermine the will of the people by siding with Raila Odinga. I do not think the ambassador has any alternatives but to try and stay neutral. Raila did not address this issue in his speech.


In relation to Raila’s call for an economic boycott, on what criteria did Raila pick the three companies to boycott? In addition to this, would Raila accept Jubilee supporters to also boycott his companies such as East African Oxygen and his vast real estate and commercial interests? What are the long-term multiplier effects of these actions on an economy already struggling from months of endless politicking?

Raila has no legislative agenda. Raila is not a Member of Parliament. I wanted to hear from his speech how he will advance a legislative agenda. He did not clearly articulate the end game for the People’s Assemblies he proposes.


Are these assemblies supposed to replace the county governments in National Super Alliance (NASA) strongholds? If they are, does this mean the Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) in the NASA strongholds essentially lose their seats to join the People’s Assemblies?

What are the oversight mechanisms for these assemblies and what would their constitutional legal structures be since the Constitution as currently drawn does not accommodate People’s Assemblies running parallel with county assemblies.

Assuming People’s Assemblies are adopted, who will foot the bill to pay the members of these assemblies?

In relation to secession, what is the end game to secession in Kenya? Will Kenya break up into 47 different ethnic enclaves? Is Raila using secession as a political bargaining chip or does he seriously envisage NASA leading breakaway republics?


What would the elective structures of these new entities be? Would Jubilee supporters still be citizens in these new republics? Again, his speech was deafeningly quiet on this question.

In conclusion, I heard Raila’s speech as high on ideals but low on substance. If he does not provide the leadership to advance concrete plans to reform the State once the picketing, boycotts, strikes, demonstrations are over, I think Kenya is in for five more years of circular politicking.

In the interim, a lecturers’ strike is ongoing, unemployment is high and the millions of demonstrating youths throwing rocks on the streets still have no jobs. Meanwhile, NASA and Jubilee politicians still have their fat salaries on the backs of the poor Kenyan worker.

I challenge Raila Odinga to provide leadership in this rocky political season. This is the least I would have expected from his speech in Washington.

Dr Monda teaches at the Political Science Department, City University of New York ( . This article first appeared in The Standard, November 14, 2017.


Related Articles