Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s critical remarks about
Zimbabwe have reverberated through a speech he delivered Tuesday at
Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) during his
first official visit to the United States.
Describing the southern African country as an eyesore and an
embarrassment to the African continent, Odinga called for President Robert
Mugabe to resign if he fails to win Zimbabwe’s June 27 presidential run-off
election. He criticized the silence of
some African leaders, who he said have failed to speak out about election
irregularities in Zimbabwe. The Kenyan prime minister also urged South African
President Thabo Mbeki and other regional leaders of the Southern African
Community (SADC) to get international monitors on the ground in time to curb
election fraud in Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off. Journalist Paul Ndiho covered Mr. Odinga’s Washington speech for
the Voice of America’s TV to Africa. He
says that the prime minister came
by his personal views on the Zimbabwe crisis from first-hand electoral
experience in his own country.
don’t think he was speaking on behalf of the Kenyan government because we
haven’t heard President Kibaki say something along these lines. I think he was speaking in his capacity as
the prime minister of Kenya and in his capacity as Raila Odinga, who is also a
Pan-Africanist, who wants to see change
in Zimbabwe. He called himself a
pessimistic African, who thinks that African leaders ought to do more to stop
the silence and maybe speak out more about what’s going on in Zimbabwe,” said
the presidential candidate for Kenya’s main opposition Orange Democratic
Movement (ODM), became prime minister in April in a coalition government,
sharing power with the disputed winner of last December 27 Kenyan presidential
elections, incumbent President Mwai Kibaki.
Ndiho notes that Raila Odinga is optimistic in describing how Kenya’s
own power sharing government is emerging after three months of hard
negotiations, determined to succeed in restoring stability and bringing
said they are very, very hopeful that this coalition government will work. But if it works, then it’s going to be a
model for other African states in the future.
He talked about how the coalition government has come together not only
to look at what happened during the post-election violence, but he also talked
about what the government is doing as far as resettling the IDP’s, the land
issue in Nyanza province. He pretty
much touched on every single thing the coalition government is trying to do to
bring back Kenya to what it was before the election. And he also urged the US government and other partners to come
back to Kenya, not to watch from the sidelines, but to help them rebuild a
country that was once known as a beacon of hope for Africa,” he said.
resettlement assistance, Ndiho cites economic assistance, support for health
care, and tourism as areas in which Washington can help the Nairobi government
get back on its feet.
number one thing would be the economy because they lost so much when they went
through that period of violence. So
basically, he’s urging the US government and other concerned partners to give a
helping hand to Kenya, not in terms of development, but maybe aid that can help
to relocate those people who are displaced, aid that can go to the health care
system, aid that can go to the tourism industry, which has been, even still is
the bread and butter of Kenya,” he said.
Minister Odinga also addressed hunger as another pressing issue, affecting
large regions of his country and also affecting Kenya’s role in serving as a
hub for hunger relief in neighboring Somalia.
He spoke about Kenya’s role as a US ally in the war against terrorism
and welcomed foreign investment in Kenyan business as the way to build a secure
future. Journalist Ndiho also noted
that it was ironic but understandable that much of the Kenyan prime minister’s
discussion yesterday at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International
Studies (CSIS) focused on the political crisis in another African country.
“I think that the reason Zimbabwe
took center stage is simply because he’s one of those African leaders who has
spoken out against the (Mugabe) regime because he’s been a victim in
Kenya. He won the election, and –
according to him, he’s the president who was never sworn in. That is how he put it. So I think when he looks back at what he
went through last year and the early part of this year, somehow, it keeps on
resonating in his mind. And with all
that is going on right now in Zimbabwe, he said there is no way they can have
an independent, later on, free and fair election because the opposition’s hands
are tied,” he noted.