October 1, 2014 OPINION/NEWS




Joe Khamisi

So, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) of Raila Odinga wants to “save” Kenya? Save it from what?

The rallying call, that is ‘Okoa Kenya,’ which the opposition in Kenya is using to push its agenda for a referendum on ambiguously defined issues has the same connotation as that of a popular Kiswahili phrase ‘Okoa Jahazi’ which literally means ‘rescue the sinking dhow.’

The question then is: Is Kenya sinking? If so, does the referendum provide the right equipment to save it from doom?

The answer to both questions is No. Kenya is not sinking, but even if it were a plebiscite is not the right prescription.

All countries – including the richest and most powerful, America – have problems. If Raila thinks poverty and unemployment are the preserve of Kenya, then he needs to spend more time in the United States to see how millions of unemployed Americans live, some in communal shelters. He also needs to watch a regular television series ‘American Greed’ to see how the rich exploit the poor and how corruption thrives. The only difference is the degree, but the problems are the same.

I have not heard Americans asking for a referendum to address issues.

That is why I believe Okoa Kenya is not about finding solutions to Kenya’s problems. It is about power and excessive greed. Everyone knows how much Raila has yearned for the presidency. He has failed three times to ascend to State House. With his advanced age, he knows time is running out. He knows the Jubilee Government is youthful, innovative and difficult to beat. He knows it enjoys popular support and has majorities in the National Assembly and in the County Governments. He knows winning in 2017 will not be easy.

My view is that Okoa Kenya is only a tool to stir the masses against the Jubilee Government. It is a stratagem that will fail just like Pesa Mashinani, a parallel referendum campaign spearheaded by Governors to force the Government to increase allocations to County Governments.

Kenya has a Constitution that provides avenues for addressing national issues. And although referendum is one of them, the country is not in a dire situation for a plebiscite. Kenyans should be called to decide only on the most critical matters, like what happened in 2005 and 2010 when the country was desperate for a new constitution.

The Constitution provides provisions for dealing with security issues.  It has mechanisms to handle integrity matters. It has guidelines to chaperon the Government on issues of rights and equitable distribution of resources; and it has provided legislative bodies whose job is to make laws.

The CORD initiative – like the Governors’ – is misguided, misplaced and prosaic. It scares investors, puts the country in an unnecessary election mode, and creates inter-party tensions. It serves no purpose at this time.




Joe Khamisi

Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of the Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.

The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.

Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’, is currently awaiting publication.

In addition to the above books, Joe Khamisi blogs at http://joekhamisi.wordpress.com/ , http://joekhamisi.blogspot.ca/ and for media enquiries can be reached at [email protected]

(This article is courtesy of Joe Khamisi and was originally published at the above blog on 28th September 2014)



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