Raila Odinga: We have exciting work ahead

[Speech at the ODM National Delegates Convention, December 2012]

Once again, I am both humbled and overjoyed to be here with you today as the leader of our great political party, ODM.


Today, we remember how buoyed with hope we were at this time in 2007, when we as aparty knew we were about to take over the leadership of this country. All the blessings and good intentions of our ODM manifesto lay, as they do today, brimming over in our basket, ready to be delivered to the people.

But sadly it was not to be.

We were denied our victory, and denied our opportunity to make areal difference to this country.

Now, however, we have another chance. And I want to reassure everyone, here at Kasarani, in Kenya and around the world, that this election will be free, fair and peaceful.

In fact, I want to ask that all presidential contenders come together in a strong show of unity and resolve, to reassure Kenyans that we are all unequivocally committed to a free, fair and peaceful election.

Ladies and gentlemen;

My purpose here today is to tell you a little about my far-reaching plans for the future of this beautiful country of ours. Today, I want us, as a party, to make a social contract with everyone in this country; that we will deliver democracy, the rule of law, prosperity, unity, inclusiveness and equality.

In conjunction with our coalition partners, we will fully implement the Constitution we fought so long and so hard to bring to fruition. We will make devolution a reality, so that all of our country has the opportunity to develop equally.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

In 2007, I said we must invest heavily in three things: One, Infrastructure! Two, Infrastructure! Three, Infrastructure!

We have seen the result in expanded road-building, accelerated growth through ICT, and successful irrigation projects in arid and semi-arid lands. While we continue with this work, I now pledge that we shall again invest heavily in three things: One, Jobs! Two, Jobs! Three, Jobs!

Every one of the ills we suffer has its roots in POVERTY.

At the very root of this poverty is the lack of jobs.

Most of our young people do not have jobs. Yet our youths have been educated to expect something more from life. They expect to be gainfully employed. They expect to have the opportunity for personal development, to make a decent living and to contribute something valuable to their communities.

Lack of jobs, as we have seen, leads to only one thing: social insecurity. Social insecurity is characterised by corruption, poor policing, muggings, extortions, insecurity, cattle-rustling, land clashes, poor health and education, strikes, deficient local production and lack of food sufficiency.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Don't get me wrong. I am proud to be a Kenyan. No one could be more proud than I am when I represent our country, as I have been privileged to do on so many occasions. And every time I am out there representing Kenya, I am always trying to learn from the experience of others, always seeking the best ways of building sustainable economic development, always planning how we can provide an environment where local and foreign investors are eager to work with us.

I have spoken many times about the Asian Tigers, those countries once at par with, or behind, Kenya, and now way ahead of us. My plan is that Kenya becomes the African Simba, the Lion of Africa, and sets the standard for the continent.

To do this, we must take a very different approach to our national life. We have already taken huge strides towards making it much easier to do business in our country. We have removed much of the red tape and bureaucracy that has made us so uncompetitive in the past.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

As well as these major steps, we shall also concentrate in areas that make a more immediate difference to the life of each individual Kenyan. Too often, we talk about annual percentage growth, GDP, rising or falling inflation, and other such exalted matters of finance. Too rarely do we consider how little the ordinary Kenyan can feel of this.

We must begin to think of the individual, of the cost of living TODAY, of having enough food on the table TODAY, of being able to send the children to school THIS TERM, of being able to afford that URGENT hospital bill, of having a road nearby so that we can market the crop ripening in the field AT THIS MOMENT.

We cannot always wait for the long-term results of big business, so we must back up these plans with parallel projects to help people improve their lives NOW.

To this end, we have many ideas that are intended to revolutionise our national life.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Our ODM manifesto is a carefully thought-out, comprehensive programme to change the direction of this nation. In preparing for job creation, for example, we shall reform the Kenya Industrial Estates to establish incubation centres in each county, so that people can acquire locally the skills they need to get jobs. We shall focus education and training systems to be more responsive to industry's needs. We shall provide funds for enterprise development among marginalised communities and disadvantaged groups, including those living with disabilities and the differently-abled.

In the Kenya we envisage, our youths will be our greatest asset.

We shall invest in business skills development among the youth and women, and then offer grants,  not loans, that will provide the start-up capital to establish viable livelihoods.

We shall give the youth the life-skills they need, so that they don't fall into the trap of drugs and alcohol and crime.

Women are at the core of Kenyan life; yet their true value as builders of this nation has never been acknowledged. We shall sustain the march towards parity and equality across the gender divide whose foundation has been laid.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

All these goals tie in with our Vision 2030, and we can only realise Vision 2030 if we have industrial peace. Over the past few months, we have seen many of our workers lay down the tools, complaining of low pay and poor working conditions; university staff, medical staff, civil servants, teachers.

Just as I have moved determinedly forward in creating an enabling business environment, so I plan to ensure that all working Kenyans receive remuneration commensurate with the contribution they are making to nation-building.

We intend to invest in rural and cottage industries and to foster transformation through a good-neighbour system, so that community efforts help each and every person to build his or her house, to plough his or her land, to reap in good time whatever has been sowed. I believe that, through ensuring social inclusion, social security, and marketable skills, we are investing in sustainable economic development;  and that means a quicker transition to a fully waged society.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

 Our country has been ripped apart by factionalism and tribal hatred. This lack of social cohesion is high on our list of things to be addressed. And I am well aware that poverty contributes the largest portion to that kind of insecurity. Poverty contributes to the ineffectiveness of our police force. We intend to fully revamp our criminal justice system. We shall improve police conditions, providing police officers with proper initial training, as well as sustained retraining and the opportunity to acquire wider policing skills. We shall provide officers with decent housing, equipment and pay cheques that match the onerous responsibilities of their work in guarding our nation.

Speaking of onerous duties; our police officers have a very onerous and important task coming up soon; that of guarding our elections. Because of their work, these officers will not be able to vote on March 4th.

In this sense, they are disenfranchised, and I am requesting the IEBC to put in place measures to allow police officers to vote early, so that they, too, have their say with the rest of the nation in electing the leaders of their choice.

All these measures we intend to take will give the police force a new culture and a new pride, guiding it towards a new identity as a pro-people agency of assistance and security.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Speaking of social cohesion brings me to the fundamental underpinnings of ODM as a socialdemocratic party that advocates the peaceful, evolutionary transformation of society through social inclusion.

Being a social-democratic party means promoting a social-market economy where people have choices, not just at the ballot box but through being stakeholders in their own economic futures.

It means ensuring rights not just to education, but to QUALITY education.

It means ensuring rights to accessible healthcare facilities; QUALITY healthcare that is a vailable to everyone through a universal health insurance scheme. Our social inclusion programmes will help close the gap between the haves and the have nots. We have begun cash-transfer programmes. We shall extend this, so that anyone who cannot make a living through no fault of their own is not forced into a life of crime, or life on the streets.

This transition to a humanly sustainable way of living will loosen the grip that criminality, homelessness, hunger, modern diseases, ethnic clashes and other ills have on our society. And when people are treated equally and there is equity in the distribution of our national resources, we shall finally be able to send ethnicity to the place where it belongs: the museum of curiosities of human history.

NOW is the time.

Ladies and gentlemen;

Only national unity will make possible the great goals we have set for ourselves. I have set the bar for co-operation with fellow Kenyans by entering, on your behalf, into coalitions with some of my fellow leaders.

At the signing on Tuesday this week of the largest coalition agreement in our history, Kenyans saw what they had so eagerly been waiting for  the composition of a new government that will usher in the change that our people have fought and sacrificed so much for over the decades.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, the Honourable Moses Wetangula and I; with so many other leaders who appeared at the formation of the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD)  have made a pledge of total commitment to a new future for our beloved country.

In the days to come, other leaders, professionals and activists will join us.

All of them realise this election is by far the most important in the history of our country.

This will be the biggest step Kenya has ever taken towards real unity.

The Grand Coalition was a forced marriage but we have still managed to achieve some things of significance;  the new Constitution, devolution, and the entrenchment of integrity as an essential pre-requisite for leadership.

We must build on these gains as a united nation, all of us willing to stand side-by-side in mutual support.

In the search for unity and dignity of our nation, I commit, as I have said before, I will petition the Security Council of the UN to have the cases facing our people before the International Criminal Court, referred back to Kenya.

We have a reforming Judiciary that enjoys the confidence of the people and can handle the cases.

My message is one of peace and unity, just as our national anthem prescribes.

We must dwell in unity, peace and liberty.

Our hearts must be strong and true and service must be our earnest endeavour.

 The third verse of the national anthem contains exactly the message I want to impart to you today: Let all with one accord, In common bond united, Build this our nation together. And the glory of Kenya, The fruit of our labour, Fill every heart with thanksgiving.

Nothing can say it better.

I, Raila Amolo Odinga, am more than READY. Are you ready? Mko tayari?

[Response: Tuko tayari!]

Then, let us get on with the job!

Thank you so much, and go well.

We have exciting work ahead.

- Raila Odinga is ODM Party Leader