REMARKS OF H.E. RAILA ODINGA FOPA ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE ON NATIONAL COHESION AND INTEGRATION;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Thank you all for the invitation to this event and for this initiative that is a first in our country.
Since independence, the trend has been that those who lose their parliamentary seats sink into oblivion or wait for the next election.
Many times, they are content with conducting occasional harambees here and there to remain in circulation while seeing no role for themselves in the bigger issues facing the nation.
Today, you have decided that you will play a role in the life of our nation. I welcome this wholeheartedly.
It is particularly uplifting that you have chosen national unity and cohesion as the launch pad of your presence. As you are all aware, at independence in 1963, we adopted Harambee, meaning pulling together in one direction, as our motto, a call to action and a guiding spirit.
In the years that followed, we took unity for granted and as a given; until we got to the brink of collapse with the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
Since then, we became a country awakened to the dangers of disunity and the need to address our simmering problems. From the violence, we became a country awakened to the tensions and that had been building in our country and which we had swept under the carpet for generations. We decided to turn our grief and anger into a resolution of Never Again.
It became my wish, which I believe is the wish of every Kenyan including those of you gathered here, that no Kenyan should ever again lose his or her life because of politics. That wish may not have been realised as subsequent elections proved. But it remains my hope that we can progressively work together as a nation towards ensuring that elections do not become mini civil wars that stall the economy, lead to eviction of citizens from parts of the country and total closure of businesses.
As men and women who have won and lost elections before, you are well placed to preach to Kenyans the idea that elections must not be life and death affairs and zero sum games that must be won at all costs. You are in a good place to convince Kenyans that there is life after elections.
I believe that our diversity is a huge asset to our country – economically, culturally and socially. At election time however, this diversity has been exploited and turned into a weakness. The diversity gets turned into us verses them, our people versus other Kenyans. That is hardly a way to build a nation.
As people who have been there, seen that and done that, you are in a good position to help our country deal with the challenge of managing diversity. You have been to the ivory tower and tower of babel that our politics sometimes degenerates into and you are therefore in a good position to help our people celebrate and clearly articulate the benefits that diversity has brought to our country.
Some of you embody an era when Kenyans saw themselves as members of one Kenyan family. You are in a good position to invoke memories of that era and create the emotional unity of our citizens. Emotional unity is necessary for our national integration. You are in a good place to help our citizens consider themselves as one and are citizens of this country regardless of their personal, ethnic, regional, social and religious differences.
You are in a good position to make Kenyans understand that no class or community can make progress by ignoring the interest of the nation.
Finally, some of you no doubt served this nation with great distinction and honour. You are therefore in a good position to inculcate in Kenyans one idea that I wish to dwell a little on; the idea of public. I am not talking about Public Service Commission. I am talking about the spirit that drove our forefathers into fighting for and granting us this great nation.
Over the years, we have slowly but steadily lost the spirit of public service. The idea that public offices are held in trust and are meant for public good and not private gain has been lost over the years. As the spirit got lost, our citizens also gave upon the idea that they have a responsibility to make the country great by electing leaders who treasure honour, dignity and integrity.
I want to impress on this group to take it as one of its roles to impress on our citizens and government the idea that our progress as a nation depend on the efforts of selfless citizens and leaders who work to change our country for the better and not those who focus on private gain.
Slowly but steadily, citizens and leaders who dedicate themselves to ensuring that Kenya’s promise is for all its citizens are getting outnumbered by those who believe in each person for himself and God for us all. Former parliamentarians are in a good place to help our country rediscover this spirit that is getting lost.
I congratulate you for this initiative and wish you all the best.