By: JUSTUS WANGA
American President Barack Obama may not have received a proper briefing on the state of corruption in Kenya ahead of his trip, opposition chief Raila Odinga has said.
In an interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Odinga said the visiting US president would not have lauded the Jubilee administration’s efforts had he stayed longer to hear of the loss of billions of shillings in government reported by Auditor-General Edward Ouko.
“I fault him (Mr Obama) on that.
There is a stark contrast of the picture that came out and the reality,” Mr Odinga said.
The Cord leader, however, said the country stood to reap big from the visit which saw global business magnates converge in Nairobi, some scouting for innovative entrepreneurs they can support.
“His visit has given Kenya positive publicity on the global stage.
“Our hope is that this will help revive our shattered tourism industry and give the youth and women more economic opportunities,” he said.
He also wished the visit came earlier in Mr Obama’s presidency to oversee the implementation of the promises he gave Kenyans.
“One would have liked it (the trip) done earlier because that way, the country would have benefited more.
“He would have had four years to follow-up on what he committed to do,” he said.
In a joint media address a State House on July 25, Mr Obama commended Mr Kenyatta for his bold step that included suspending members of his Cabinet.
He urged him to take the war to senior officials.
Five Cabinet Secretaries Charity Ngilu (Lands), Davies Chirchir (Energy), Kazungu Kambi (Labour), Felix Koskei (Agriculture) and Michael Kamau (Transport) are suspended after facing allegations of corruption.
The former Prime Minister, who spoke at his Karen home, faulted President Kenyatta and the Jubilee administration for using the visit to make up for its “legitimacy deficit”.
“To them, the US was a waning power when they took over power and this informed their East-leaning foreign policy until President Obama decided to come.
“The irrational behaviour you are seeing now is a clear testament of a regime that was drowning, even willing to clutch at a straw.”
Mr Odinga also downplayed celebrations in Jubilee circles touched off by Mr Obama’s remarks that a certain opposition leader had, in a private session on Sunday, asked him to help press the government on a number of issues.
He said much as the sentiments were made in jest, Jubilee was unfairly milking it yet President Obama did not mean to castigate the opposition. Jubilee supporters are treating the remark as an American stamp of approval for the government.
The general feeling within the opposition is that President Obama chose to be a bit generous with the Jubilee administration in a number of aspects like its anti-corruption push as well as what has been christened “tongue-lashing the opposition” within Jubilee quarters.
Mr Odinga accuses President Kenyatta of employing a half-hearted approach in the war on graft citing Dr Ouko’s reports that indicate the government could not account for about Sh67 billion spent in the last fiscal year.
He also pointed to allegations that millions of shillings could have been lost at the National Youth Service under Devolution and National Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru’s watch as some of the cases that dent Mr Kenyatta’s scorecard on corruption.
Overall, Mr Odinga said the US leader was on the mark in all his speeches, helping reinforce what they have been saying for the last two years.
“President Obama echoed the same gospel, that of the need to stop politics of ethnicity we have been preaching all along.
“From the need to strengthen devolution, promote transparency in government to paying more attention to marginalised groups and with a better platform than ours, we articulated them so well,” he said.
Their only hope, he said, was that Jubilee would take him seriously. The opposition chief said Mr Obama needed no lecture on what ails the country.
The fact that he met the opposition after having bilateral talks with Mr Kenyatta was also god-send, he said, arguing that the striking similarities between the memorandum they presented to Mr Obama and the focus of most of his speeches would have drawn protests from the government that they remotely influenced the terms of engagement.
“In any case, that (first meeting with the opposition) never happens anywhere in the world.
The practice is to have the visiting head of state meet his host before he can host any other parties,” he added.
Also, he explained that the reduction in the time they met Mr Obama had been informed by the same fact.
“We were supposed to meet him for 45 minutes but because we had prepared a memorandum on issues we wanted to discuss, it turned out that he had tackled most of them so I just took him through a summary of the document thereby saving on time.”
The fact that Mr Obama met Mr Odinga, his co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula together with Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua for slightly less than 30 minutes had raised eyebrows with some asking if he was doing so just as a formality.
Mr Obama signed a number of agreements with Government of Kenya “to sustain its commitment to conduct thorough investigations into corruption cases and, where investigations adduce sufficient evidence, to professionally prosecute such corruption cases, including cases recommended by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission” during the historic three-day trip.
Prior to his coming, Jubilee politicians had accused the opposition of seeking to tarnish the government’s image in the hope that it would get a dressing down from Mr Obama.
On the push by the opposition to have the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) reformed before the next General Election, Mr Odinga expressed hope that the US government would help set up a new electoral infrastructure as well as train the staff on how to use it.
Mr Odinga, who is also the ODM leader, revealed that the Cord leadership had given the committee driving Okoa Kenya referendum campaign up to September 15 to forward signatures to the IEBC to start the process.
“We are in the final stages. Clerks are keying in the data before it is presented to the IEBC.
They are working in two shifts of 40 each, day and night to meet the deadline,” he stated.
His update on the referendum helps calm anxiety among Cord supporters.