Why we needed Raila in the Senate

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By COLLINS WANDERI

It is unfortunate that former Prime Minister Raila Odinga turned down the offer by ODM political leaders and elders from Homa Bay to succeed Otieno Kajwang as their Senator.

I supported the efforts by the elders and political leaders of Homa Bay County to persuade Hon. Raila Odinga to vie in Homa Bay because their reasons are far-sighted and good for Kenya for several reasons. Just before independence, Kariuki Njiiri had to vacate his seat as the Member for Fort Hall (now Murang’a) in the LEGCO to create room for Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who needed to join the Legislature so that he could participate in the Lancaster House Conference on the future of Kenya.

This after the LEGCO member from Kiambu declined to step down for Mzee Kenyatta. The Hon. Raila is an eminent political leader in Kenya with a massive following and near fanatical support in many parts of Kenya. His voice and views cannot be ignored in the national discourse. It is important to view his role holistically and not through the lenses of the petty squabbles that characterize the relationship between the governing Jubilee and the Opposition CORD Coalitions.

Raila was a Co-Principal in the Coalition Government that ruled Kenya between April 2008 and April 2013. He was essentially a quasi-head of Government/State. He continues to enjoy State protection and other stipends funded by taxpayers although he is not in the formal structure of government.

In progressive democracies like the Republic of Italy, all Heads of State (HODs) and Eminent personalities are constitutionally appointed Senators for Life once their terms of office come to an end. This ensures that the country is able to tap into the immense expertise, acumen and socio-political influence these individuals enjoy in the country.

Closer home in the Republic of Burundi all former Heads of State are Members of the State Senate by law and right. Like Raila, they also enjoy armed State protection. Burundi enacted a progressive Constitution after years of conflict to promote national cohesion and to ensure that all prominent leaders (HODs) with a large following are not left out of the national discourse and healing process. All these former Heads of State who serve in the Senates of their countries are paid a pension using taxpayers money.

Their salaries in the Senate are discounted against the amount of pension received. Imagine our Senate being patronized by the likes of their Excellencies Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki and the Right Hon. Raila Odinga? Obviously this would enrich the stature of the Upper House and infuse debates which are above the petty dissonance we have been treated to between the Senate and the National Assembly.

The current Constitution was enacted in the backdrop of the tragic post election violence (PEV) which marred the hotly contested 2007 General Elections. The civil society activists who pushed through the inclusion of many of the so-called progressive provisions the Kenya Constitution 2010 did not think through the political ramifications of having a person who garners between 45pc and 49pc of the electoral vote in a presidential election being completely left out of the national leadership and totally shut out of the formal legislative and executive process of governance.

This is what makes the competition for political power in Kenya such a perilous venture often tinged with negative ethnic overtones. It is the single threats of marginalization by dominant groups that often leads to such cut-throat competition and the use of negative ethnicity as the primary basis for political mobilization.

By shutting out political leaders with a large following such as Hon. Raila Odinga, our Constitution may have achieved the exact opposite in the efforts to engender national healing, inter-ethnic cohesion and positive nationalism. If the drafters of the 2010 Constitution had checked what countries emerging from violent conflicts or those marred with inter-ethnic strife do to accommodate everybody within the formal structure of governance in order to spur cohesion and nationalism, they would have avoided the situation Kenya finds itself today.

It is for these reasons that I wished that the good people of Homa Bay County had seriously considered supporting and massively electing Hon. Raila Odinga as their next Senator. Kenya would be the richer with the former Prime Minister and co-principal in the Coalition Government contributing to national discourse through a formal structure of governance such as the Senate.

You should have done it for Kenya, not for yourself nor the persona of Raila Odinga!

Capt (Rtd) Collins Wanderi is an Advocate and chairperson, Kenya Institute of Forensic Auditors (KeIFA).

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