Raila Odinga

Month: May 2018




MAY 17, 2018.


I am greatly honored to be at Oxford University as a guest of the Oxford Union, one of the oldest debating societies in the world.

I come here a few days after speaking at Cambridge University as a guest of the Cambridge Union. Together, you make for two of the greatest institutions whose footprints are found everywhere on every subject, across the globe.

Oxford and Cambridge universities have been part and parcel of Africa’s vision of education as an indispensable ingredient to the achievement of a vibrant democracy; sustained and equitable economic growth, good governance and eradication of poverty.

I must therefore recognize and applaud this university for the continued commitment to providing sound education to Africa’s youth through scholarships like that administered jointly by Oxford and Cambridge Society of Kenya to undergraduate and graduate students.

I also recognize your joint research projects with Kenyan universities. Research is the weakest link in Africa’s universities largely due to funding challenges.

With ties that bind like the colonial heritage, education and cultural links that broke language barriers, Europe and Africa should be enjoying greater and more mutually beneficial relations.

The reality however is that Europe has a problem in Africa. It is what I wish to speak to you about.

As signature institutions like this great university have strived to maintain the ties with Africa, their efforts have been undermined by European politics and attitudes.

Africa is feeling the impact of the inward-looking, populist regimes emerging across Europe that are also steeped in old images of European grandeur towards a supposedly dark African continent of wars, poverty and pestilence.

The ties between Europe and Africa have failed to change with the times, making our two continents miss the opportunities that have emerged over time.

There is minimal language and transport barrier between Europe and Africa. All the major European languages -English, French and Spanish- are spoken in Africa. Geographically, Africa is closer to Europe than to Asia and North America.

Because of geography and history, Europe remains Africa’s leading trade partner.

But Africa and Europe have not leveraged these very clear advantages.


Europe has taken either these ties or Africa for granted. At some stage, Europe appeared to embrace the idea of Africa being a “Hopeless Continent” as Economist magazine once referred to it. Europe got content with occasional and predictable reports about corruption, civil wars, stolen elections, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, Female Genital Mutilation and starvation because these are in line with the thinking in European capitals about what Africa is.

In the process, Europe failed to see the emergence of this long suffering but immensely resilient and endowed Continent.

Yes, Africa continues to experience fundamental socio-economic and political challenges.

The Continent continues to be plagued by poverty and political crises that make it to media headlines and shape the general perception even among policy makers here.

Unfortunately, this has kept Europe stuck on sending troops and occasional aid to struggling countries. In the process, they made Europe fail to be a genuine partner with an emerging and booming Africa that has experienced sustained high economic growth of around five per cent, over the past decade.

Africa is today looking for partners in Europe who can combine better the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity that fueled the French Revolution and which must now be realized in the context of modern day regime of human rights, the rule of law, economic prosperity and democracy. Unfortunately, these now appear to be getting sacrificed at the altar of European political, economic and strategic considerations that work against Africa.

Africa is looking for partners who believe in win-win relationships. We are keen on greater practical, politically backed engagement with the private sector and civil-society actors, on both continents to fuel democratization and economic prosperity.

One area in which Africa feels most cheated by Europe is trade. Africa is feeling the pressure by Europe on African governments to sign trade deals that would work against Africans. To date, Economic Partnership Agreements remain points of great disagreement and suspicion between Africa and Europe. These agreements need to be concluded once and for all in a way that is fair and beneficial to both parties.

Africans are equally getting increasingly apprehensive over Europe’s immigration policies. Africa is outraged over the number of its citizens who die while trying to reach Europe. Young Africans resort to boats and other unorthodox means to access Europe because legal avenues have become too complex or simply unavailable. Europe has failed to enact EU-wide common asylum and immigration law that offers safe transit routes and is fair and efficient for asylum seekers.

Instead, immigration and fear of immigrants is being used as means to rise to power in Europe. These developments are quietly entrenching the feeling in Africa that racism remains real in Europe. Suspicions over trade and immigration make our citizens and leaders view Europe as an unreliable partner for Africa.

Even more disturbing is Europe’s ambivalence on democracy today.

As we meet here, many pro-democracy activists in Africa are no longer sure they have the support of Europe. It is not clear if it is still Europe’s policy to stand only with regimes that promote open, free and fair elections and respect human rights. That ambivalence is itself a source of conflict in Africa.

We see democratization as key to the economic and political empowerment of Africa. On paper, the EU development aid includes an important component supporting democracy, good governance and rule of law. The EU has also become an important partner in election observation and democracy assistance, on paper. In practice, the EU has become part of the growing trend in the west where elections in Africa are judged only by how peaceful they are and whether they create room for trade and war on terror.

We see this this attitude in your diplomats and election observers across Africa and it is not helpful even to your desired goal of stability.

While Europe and its diplomats are interested merely in stability and trade, we in Africa know that only a full embrace of democracy will give us the momentum we need to take off and provide for our young generation who are currently forced to cross into Europe because of lack of opportunities in Africa.

The wind of change that blew across Africa in the 1990s proved that only democracy ensures that public goods and resources are put too much better use by the government.  It is the wind of change that resulted in six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries being in Africa.


This was a monumental leap considering that from 1974 through the mid-1990s, Africa’s growth was negative, reaching negative 1.5 percent in the 1990-94 period.

With the wind of change, life expectancy in Africa increased by about 10 per cent and child mortality rates started falling in most African countries. Real income per person increased by more than 30 per cent. In the previous 20 years, it shrank by nearly 10 per cent.

Where Europe has dithered, emerging economies have moved in and seized the new opportunities.

The western world is lamenting about China’s deep roots in Africa today. But China is not alone. India, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Japan and South Korea are equally developing deep roots in Africa, taking advantage of the doubts Europe seems to have about the Continent.

As new players move in, Africa is also moving away from just lamenting about diminishing donor funding and trade opportunities. We are coming up with ambitious strategies to mobilize own domestic resources. We are determined to harness high potentials from natural resources and to invest in industrialization, security, healthcare, agriculture, infrastructure and institutional reforms.

The ‘hopeful continent’ will continue to be frustrated and disillusioned by missed development goals.

But we are no longer waiting for the reluctant world to help us out of our political and economic challenges. Because we have a better understanding of our problems and their dynamics, we are turning to ourselves to resolve the problems.

That is why in Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta and I shocked the world by closing ranks after a bitter election contest that left the nation torn down the middle.

As leaders, we came to the acceptance that solutions to our problems must result from an honest assessment of objective realities prevailing in the nation and the best interests of our people.

We are determined to address ages-old problems of ethnic antagonism, lack of national ethos, marginalization, strengthening devolution, divisive elections, safety and security and corruption. We will need partners, not patrons on this journey.

We very much appreciate the speed with which the EU and the rest of the western world have embraced the handshake and offered support. But I must emphasize that Kenyans are prepared to walk it alone if it comes to that.

It is our hope that the Handshake between the President and I can inspire other African nations struggling problems similar to Kenya’s and make them seek home-grown solutions based on mutual understanding.


The indifference of the external world has also inspired the creation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

We are determined to encourage intra-Africa trade that stood at a mere 16 per cent of Africa’s total trade in 2016.  We are determined to move Africa away from simply being a place where the powerhouse economies of the West and East come for raw materials.  Africa has triumphed against monumental odds before. Africa will triumph again.




Tuesday, 15th May 2018.

It is an honour to visit the city of Cambridge as a guest of the debating society of Cambridge University.
The history of Cambridge University is deeply intertwined with that of Africa. Until the 1970s, the terminating examination for secondary education in Kenya was the Cambridge Overseas O-Level examination. There is a large section of Kenyan workforce to date that traces their education to the Cambridge exams.
It is not an accident that Cambridge University Press, one of the oldest in the world, has published some of the most outstanding books on Africa, including The Cambridge History of Africa and Africa Since 1940, among others.
It is also not an accident that in 2008, Cambridge-Africa initiative was set up as an umbrella programme to strengthen research capacity and scholarship in African universities and research institutes. I thank this university for keeping the ties going. The name Cambridge also came back to us strongly last year in the form of the now infamous Cambridge Analytica.
Over the years however, as institutions like Cambridge University have strived to deepen the ties with Africa, overall, the links have weakened between the two continents.
It is with this in mind that my focus before this audience will be the changing state of the world, particularly with regard to foreign policy and what the changes mean to Africa.
Fundamental political, economic and social shifts are taking place across the world. More inward looking regimes are emerging among the many nations that once looked beyond their borders with dedicated focus on Africa.
The western world, to which Africa once turned for partnership on democratization, trade, education and immigration is shutting its doors on the Continent.
The post-world war interconnected and caring western world that was imagined by the likes of Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, Konrad Adenauer, Mikail Gorbachev, Harry Truman, J.F. Kennedy and Woodrow Wilson, among others, is falling apart. These leaders and their immediate successors agreed that engagement not retreat was the way to a safer and better world. They laid the foundation that anchored a global system on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
In the last ten years, this global system has been under severe pressure. It is now destructing. In its place, populists peddling half-truths, outright lies and fear are rising. By and large, facts and policies no longer win elections. Fear, lies and manipulation of data do. Nobody knows this better the United Kingdom from the Brexit experience that was driven by fear…fear of immigrants, blacks, Muslims, terrorists, Chinese…supposedly flooding the UK if the country remained in the EU. The US is struggling with the results of politics of fear couched as “America First” policy.
The western world that was once the destination of choice for ambitious Third World youths is showing us its back. We have lately witnessed horrific scenes of immigrants from Africa and places like Albania, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Ukraine stuck at borders of Europe. Europe has failed to enact EU-wide common asylum and immigration law that offers safe transit routes and is fair and efficient for asylum seekers.
France recently introduced a Bill that allows the authorities to hold migrants illegally in detention centers for up to 90 days instead of the current 45, in order to organize their deportation. Under the bill, people illegally crossing borders of the EU travel-free zone will be fined 3,750 euros ($4,600).
Across the Atlantic, the US is pushing to reduce the number of legal immigrants in the country.
These developments are taking place against the background of declining interest in democracy by the West. Between 2009 and 2016, U.S. government spending on democracy, human rights, and governance programs fell by nearly $400 million. The Community of Democracies, a coalition established in 2000 lacks the resources and visibility to have much impact.
We recognize and applaud efforts of Sweden and the United Kingdom to individually continue supporting significant bilateral programs to promote democracy and improve governance. But the budgets are minimal. Not much has been felt from the European Endowment for Democracy or the United Kingdom’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
The dwindling funding for democracy has been worsened by the extremely casual and cavalier attitude of western election observers and diplomats in Africa with regard to elections and democratization.
Much of the assessment of the observers and western diplomats appear to be clouded with a desire to calm the waters for international investors with huge stakes in African countries and stability.
In dealing with Africa, much of the western world is focusing exclusively on security, stability and the need to contain China.
The changes in global politics mean that the challenges and opportunities facing Africa today are different from those of the colonial, the post-colonial, the cold war and post-cold war periods.

One of Africa’s greatest writers Chinua Achebe told us: “Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history and by providence to perform.”
With the world disengaging, the current generation of Africans is rising to the challenge of making Africa take charge of its affairs. Africa is looking into itself and thinking of homemade solutions to the challenges it faces in a world that is interconnected and disengaged at the same time.
That is the context in which the world must view our recent decision to close ranks with President Uhuru Kenyatta after a bitter election contest that left the nation torn down the middle.
As leaders, we came to the acceptance that solutions to our problems will never come from outside and that the solutions must result from an honest assessment of objective realities prevailing in the nation.
In Kenya, we agreed to recognize and confront the historical realities that we have long swept under the carpet. We took a journey down memory lane; from our struggle from independence to date and the realities that have impeded our progress.
We agreed that the time had come for Kenya to reflect on its performance in the search for the hallowed goals of justice, unity, peace, liberty and prosperity for all that our struggle for independence was about. We came to the conclusion that our diversity appeared destined to be a curse to ourselves today and to our children tomorrow unless we confront them.
We recognized that the differences were becoming too entrenched yet no two Kenyans can agree on the origins of the differences and what they portend.
We got concerned that millions of our children continued to be born and married into these differences; that people were dying out of these differences and the already well entrenched differences are currently leaking into the fourth generation in primary and secondary schools. Yet in many instances, Kenyans cannot remember why and where they disagreed in the first place.
We narrowed the challenges down to strengthening devolution and tackling corruption, marginalization, divisive elections, security and lack of national ethos.
We are not in anyway deluded that these changes will come easy. There will be opposition and resistance because the issues we want to tackle go to the core of how Kenya has been ran over the past five decades. Many political careers have been made out of the foundation we are now seeking to shake and rebuild and many were hoping to make more careers out of that same foundation. But we are agreed that we have to make these changes if we are to have a nation.

Creating a stable nation is the primary, if not the sole purpose of the Building Bridges Initiative. It is an opportunity for a frank discussion about the questions that have bedeviled Kenya for decades.
We see our agreement, which is now commonly referred to as the “handshake” as a possible guide that other African countries could borrow with modifications to address their circumstances. It is our hope that the Handshake could inspire other African nations struggling problems similar to Kenya’s.
The developments on the global stage are also the context in which the world must view the creation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and which Kenya strongly supports.
We view the creation of a single market with duty-free access among traders in the continent is a long overdue means to spur industrialization, infrastructure development and economic diversification across Africa.
We are determined to ensure that rather than spend more energy and time negotiating complex trade agreements with the external world, we would be better off encouraging intra-Africa trade which stood at a mere 16 per cent of Africa’s total trade in 2016. We are determined to move Africa away from the narrative of simply being a place where the powerhouse economies of the West and East come to get their raw materials. We see investment in intra-Africa trade as our way of getting out of aid trap. When Africa’s population doubles to two billion people, many of them will be young, under 18. This comes with tremendous opportunities and challenges. We recognize that one of the most urgent tasks facing Africa is to create opportunities for these youths and ensure a decent life for them. In all these homegrown initiatives, we want partners, not patrons. Africa is moving forward, sadder but wiser.



We are meeting at an extra-ordinary time, under extra ordinary circumstances. The times and circumstances demand that we speak the truth, and that we do so frankly and boldly as we face the conditions in our country today.

So let me begin by being very clear on one issue. The meeting we are holding here today, the others to come in the near future, the activities we have pursued in recent past and those we will embark on in the coming days, are not about 2022 elections.

We meet against the background of the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and I during which we launched the Building Bridges to a New Kenyan Nation initiative.

That handshake has been hailed across the world and many of our citizens as a bold step towards addressing ours problems once and for all and bequeathing a better country to our children. But it has also become the subject of much political discourse and distortion by sections of leaders.
That handshake was not about 2022. It was too significant an event to be reduced to a struggle for positions, promises and ambitions of individuals.
This country has had elections before. We had Presidents, Prime Ministers and even Chief Secretaries before. There is nothing special about 2022 elections. The only thing that is special is that we have arrived at an agreement that we must do things differently going forward. We also have something special in the realization that if we don’t do the things we have set out in the MoU with President Uhuru Kenyatta, 2022 elections will amount to doing the same thing time and again and expecting different results.

Without the changes we envisage in the MoU, 2022 will be messy. It will come with the same confusion, heartbreaks and possibly chaos. We are trying to forestall such eventualities. As a forward looking and reform minded party, we must resist the efforts of political shylocks demanding their pound of the flesh out of the handshake.

Let us take a dispassionate look at where we were before the handshake and where we are now as a country and decide whether this was a worthy effort.

I am convinced that it was the right thing to do and I know President Kenyatta equally agrees it was worth the effort and the risk and we are determined to push it to its logical end.

Kenya is at a crossroads. Elections are mini civil wars. Businesses close at election time. Citizens relocate to perceived safe areas at election time. Many of our citizens feel disenfranchised and excluded. Corruption is killing that nation. Citizens view each other with suspicion, mistrust and anger. A little misstep and we tip over the precipice.

As leaders and a party, we have a duty think beyond 2022 and put the country on a path towards lasting unity and meaningful reconciliation. Not many nations that get to the brink secure a second chance to rethink and re-imagine their destinies. We are among the very lucky few and we must not take it for granted.

In the MoU called the Building Bridges to the New Kenyan Nation, we have identified ethnic antagonism, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, strengthening devolution, ending divisive elections, ensuring safety and security of our people, ending corruption and ensuring shared prosperity as issues our country has to address if we are to create a nation at peace with itself.
We will soon unveil a series of public events across the country to outline the terms of the MoU to Kenyans.
Addressing some of these issues may require changes to some of our laws and even amendments to the constitution. When that time comes, we must be bold enough to pick up the challenge as a matter of duty to the nation.

To participate actively in the national discourse and drive the agenda ahead, we must reorganize, rebrand and rebuild as a party. We must stay focused and refuse to be distracted by familiar voices that always stand on our paths to reform.

On this agenda of great national importance, we are prepared to work with old and new allies in the Opposition and in government as we have done in the past. ODM must take its rightful place in driving Project Kenya and the birth a new nation within the next one year, together with other like-minded parties and leaders. I am counting on your support. The country is looking up to us for leadership.
I thank you.