RAILA RAISES POTENT ISSUES IN MEETING WITH EDITORS
I am not here to give a lecture but rather to share thoughts on emerging and lingering national issues and to hear from you. Thank you for joining us.
The media remain important contributors to the search for solutions to the many challenges facing our country.
Even when we read from different scripts as we sometimes do, I retain the faith that by and large, all journalists wake up looking forward to doing a good job for the country, but they have to face society as it is, not as it should be.
I believe you are doing your part for our people by reporting on our challenges and progress, sometimes under very difficult circumstances.
You have done a good job in documenting the mega corruption dogging our country and explaining the man made problems that marred 2013 elections.
I have admired the coverage of the counties across the media. Whether you have exposed the rising cost of wheelbarrows or the arm-twisting and impeachment of governors or the cost of setting up a Facebook account, the coverage of counties has helped underscore the fact that there are two levels of governments in Kenya now and both are critical to our success as a nation.
I know what you go through in the process of telling stories critical to the rich and powerful.
I know those among you who have been threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed simply for doing their best to bring us the story, to give people a voice, and to hold leaders accountable.
We may continue challenging you about the rationale for the unchanging opinion poll question about Raila’s future in politics.
Generally however, I recognize that you have demonstrated leadership by critically distilling the major issues facing us and you should continue doing so.
As Kenyans, we are all looking for a society that is free, democratic, fair and just that offers opportunities for advancement to all.
We will not always agree on how to get to that kind of society.
We have also been accused of ever being critical of government and offering no solutions. Many times, we offer many solutions alongside the criticism, though we believe we are not a consultancy for the government.
When we believe we are right, as time has proved we were on the NYS saga, we stand our ground.
This is partly why I asked for this meeting.
Our country is going through challenging times.
As insecurity has exploded, we have asked for the involvement of County governments in addressing the problem. We have also asked for the completion of the security sector reforms as envisaged in the constitution.
We have also called for a program for winning hearts instead of antagonizing communities as we confront terrorism. We have called for a coordinated approach to the war on corruption.
There have been deliberate attempts through legislation to roll back democratic space including media freedom.
For this, we have gone to court and the courts agreed with us.
Devolution has not been fully accepted by everyone and so county governments that are the most critical aspects of our constitution are struggling.
We have consistently appealed to the government to meet the constitutional obligation of releasing the specified percentage of the budget to the counties in a timely and predictable manner. We have equally called for an increase in the amount to counties to secure devolution.
Despite the rosy picture we are given, our economy is in bad shape.
Public debt has doubled and foreign debt has overtaken domestic debt. We are borrowing and spending at an unsustainable rate. We are experiencing wage pressure and it will continue. The standoff between teachers and the National Government currently under way might just be the beginning. As the shilling takes a beating, we should expect that more workers will demand to be cushioned through pay rises. We have called on the National Government to be prudent in use of funds and especially in borrowing.
We have also asked the government to embrace devolution as a way of containing the wage bill.
The wage crisis is a result of National Governmentâ€™s failure to adjust and align itself to the constitution.
The National Government is retaining and paying an estimated 60,000 workers who have been made redundant by devolution. They are ballooning the wage bill.
The stand off with teachers is most unfortunate because it also raises fundamental questions about the rule of law.
Can a government go against a Supreme Court ruling and still enforce the same rule of law? We doubt.
The strike also puts focus on the style of our politics and the need for us to embrace a culture of consultations.
It reminds us of our call for dialogue last year. We are no longer interested in that. But we believe that had the State allowed dialogue at that time, it would have set a positive trend through which we could resolve so many emerging issues including the ongoing strike.
We clearly need humility in government.
As we grapple with the strike and the government maintains it has no money, we must recall that Kenyans are yet to know what the government did with the 2.15 billion dollars of Eurobond money.
Yet an attitude of chest thumping, take-it or leave it arrogance permeates all State operations especially in moments of crisis.
The President raised the bar and at some stage personally stated that he did not know who was innocent and who was not when he asked a bunch of state officers to step aside over corruption.
Now look at the NYS saga. We were called names when we said money had been lost. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations has since confirmed that a lot of money was lost. That means the Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru was involved in a cover up and conspiracy to subvert the course of justice.
The question then is, what was her interest in misleading the Kenyan public? What is the relationship between the CS and these NYS deals? What is her relationship with the culprits?
We know that the CS appointed Mr Adan Harake as deputy director general of NYS, then took Authority to Incur Expenses from Mr Nelson Githinji, the head of NYS and gave it to Mr Harake. That AIE is what was used to steal the money. Is this an innocent coincidence? What justifies her continuation in office where she continues to use public resources to defend herself?
When we look at the crises grounding the nation, the thread that runs across is the absence of humility.
Government is a powerful instrument. But best governments exhibit humility.
We need humility in government. The attitude of we are in power, what will you do is driving us to a ditch.
It is evident in the case of teachers. It is evident in the NYS saga. You see it with the war on terror and in the recent changes in the Police Service.
As Opposition, we believe we have played a very patriotic and responsible role in the evolving chain of events the end of which we are yet to see. The burden is really on the government.