REMARKS OF H.E RAILA A. ODINGA DURING THE PUBLIC LECTURE BY THE FORD FOUNDATION PRESIDENT, DARREN WALKER, TAIFA HALL, 10TH JANUARY 2019.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by thanking the University of Nairobi for hosting us this afternoon. It is always a great pleasure and honor to be and exchange views at this great academic institution that has shaped opinions and policies of our nation over the years.
A robust exchange of views is healthy for any society and Kenya is no exception. In fact, meeting here to exchange views as we do today continues to remind us of our journey of liberation as a nation. It was not always a given that anybody could walk into Taifa Hall and deliver a lecture. We fought for this freedom and we must continue to guard jealously this hard won freedom to gather, to express ourselves and to hold opinions without looking over our shoulders.
I always value listening to leaders from all backgrounds as well as to accomplished and aspiring scholars to enrich my thoughts on the way forward for our country, Kenya and for Africa and I must admit I have benefitted immensely from these engagements over the years.
As you know, in the year 2012, the Foundation honoured me as a Champion of Democracy while I was serving as the second Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya.
But our ties run deeper. Your early investment in developing the civil service in the immediate post-independence period, your strong investment in the International Fellowships Program (IFP) has produced many leaders that today offer their skills and vision towards a much more equal, fairer and just Kenya. We thank you for investing in us.
As a country, we continue to face many challenges; challenges of corruption, job creation, national cohesion, democratization and delivery of high standards of living for our citizens particularly in critical areas like health, education and infrastructure.
But I believe we are on the path to turning the corner on these challenges. We are on the path to rallying our citizens to jointly confront these challenges without fear and minus the tribal lenses that some would want us to wear.
Nations are judged by how they navigate turbulent and challenging times like the ones we are going through. After a difficult election in 2017 that left the nation on the brink, President Uhuru Kenyatta and I agreed to come together and help this country retrace its steps and stabilize. That get together has been hailed across the world as Kenya’s last second chance. We are determined to make it count.
I want to believe that as a country, we have learnt our lessons and that is why we have retraced our steps and our history through the Building Bridges to the New Kenyan Nation initiative. We are focused on building a resilient democracy that takes into consideration our unique history and current circumstances.
We are focused on creating a society where we can compete for power openly and even disagree strongly but we don’t lose sight of our goals as a nation. There must be a common purpose; some national good we are pursuing as a nation and that we must not allow to be derailed by our wish to be or to look great as individuals.
We are focused on building a society in which when our dreams as individuals appear to be a threat to our collective dream as a nation, we must be prepared to sacrifice those personal dreams. Fighting corruption, tribalism, impunity is a good place to start. We must not let go of the war on these vices. We must not agree to be derailed by the lords of these vices.
To the young men and women gathered here, I wish to assure all of you that as leaders, we are going all out, doing what was once unthinkable and making all necessary sacrifices to address the problems we face and bequeath you a better country.
My friend President Bill Clinton said that if he were to sum up his view of public life, it would come down to… “Are people better off when you quit than when you started? Do children have a brighter future? Are things coming together instead of being torn apart?” I fully subscribe to this view. It is a principle by which I have lived and will continue to embrace.
Many of you here call me Baba, and I accept the title with all humility. I want to assure you that as a father, I am determined to ensure that things work for you, that you have a brighter future and that Kenyans are better off when I quit than when I started. This is the reason we agreed with President Uhuru Kenyatta to put aside everything else and work for Kenya.
To help us realize this dream, I wish to appeal to the youth to aspire to higher ideals that they shall never compromise on for the sake of Kenya. Don’t live in vain. Don’t be a spectator in the affairs of your country. That is the spirit of civil engagement.
Thank you and God bless you.