FCAEA hosts Raila Odinga for on-record briefing

The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa hosted former Kenyan prime minister and presidential candidate Raila Odinga for an on-the-record briefing in late May. With some 40 members in attendance and moderated by FCAEA Board member and BBC Africa correspondent Alastair Leithead, we heard from the NASA (National Super Alliance) candidate who has just launched his fourth – and he says last – presidential election campaign.

There were great questions and we covered a lot of ground including his intention to close Dadaab slowly and over a longer period of time, to pull Kenyan troops out of AMISOM and “back to the Kenyan border…our side of the border.” Odinga said the way to solve the land invasions in Laikipia is to tackle “historical injustices” in the long-term and appeared to put the weight of blame on large white-owned farm ownership and drought than on politics to explain the breakdown of law and order in the region. African countries need to get “value for money” deals out of China,” he said, and mocked government plans to move oil from Turkana by road tankers.

He backed the IEBC’s progress towards free and fair elections, but said the audit of the voters’ register was a key priority in the lead up to the elections. Odinga wants NASA observers at every centre where presidential votes were being announced to ensure they tallied with the figure electronically transmitted to the central collating authority. He also said he worried that security forces could be used to intimidate people against voting in opposition strongholds over what he implied were fabricated fears of “potential violence,” adding this should be monitored closely. He played down fears of election violence, saying there would be no trouble if the election was free and fair.

While claiming credit for the SGR as part of the unity government infrastructure plan (when he was PM), Odinga said maize was more important than mega-projects, stressing he felt this was going to be an “issues-based” rather than ethnic-based election. He said Kenyans would decide based on the following issues: the high cost of living and inflationary pressures despite a growing economy, corruption, high unemployment, the lack of ethnic inclusivity and security. He said young people are moving away from traditional ethnic-bloc voting, stressed the power of social media in this election, and responded to the Jubilee Alliance use of Cambridge Analytica for their strategy said NASA had a secret weapon he couldn’t tell us anything about.

He called campaign spending “a David and Goliath” contest claiming NASA had far less money to spend, but said: “I will not be robbed this time.”