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Fund opposition parties, Raila tells the West

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Cord leader Raila Odinga.

Cord leader Raila Odinga.

CORD leader Raila Odinga has put the international community on notice of a new “cold war” if it persists in inconsiderate support for incumbent governments and ignoring Opposition parties.

Speaking at the London political summit hosted by the London Metropolitan University yesterday, Raila made a strong case for foreign funding of Opposition political parties and cautioned that the West’s undivided support for dubious incumbents in the name of fighting terrorism and containing China’s influence would boomerang on them.

“We must show that we have learnt lessons from history. If the policy of containment against Communism gave us the Cold War, then the policy of containment against China and terrorism will give us the new cold and frozen war,” he said. “The whole world will lose for a second time.”

He informed the summit that the Opposition in Kenya is grappling with fundamental reforms in the electoral infrastructure – the system of voter registration, the counting of the votes, result transmission and announcement of results.

Massive graft

It had, he explained, also unearthed massive government corruption, forced debate on government projects that had massive negative impact on the environment and stopped unconstitutional amendments to the law.

Further, the Opposition had forced debate on foreign policy interventions like “the continued stay of our soldiers in Somalia, the forceful relocation of refugees from Kenya to Somalia and our growing public debt.”

“These efforts require that the international community must do more, not less, for democracy. The West in particular must show unequivocal support for free and fair elections,” he said.

He also paid glowing tribute to Opposition parties in Africa for remaining “resilient and unapologetic” and for stimulating growth when winning parties slumber after elections.

The era of single party rule looks gone forever, he said, much as ruling parties strive to reinvent the old era.

“The West has tends to devote resources to building the capacities of incumbents and ignored Opposition parties. “Showering incumbents with aid and ignoring the Opposition often achieves the undesired effect of encouraging the governing parties to embrace the old ways of corruption, dictatorship and lack of accountability and transparency,” he said.

He said international community’s one-sided support for incumbents feeds the notion that opposition to the government of the day is unpatriotic and amounts to sabotaging the national agenda.

Raila credited the implosion of Opposition parties to the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989. Before then, he said, presidents for life, military and single party dictatorships ruled the landscape while elections were mere formalities.

“In just two decades, 25 out of the 55 countries that make Africa are considered as democracies of varying degrees. In the year 2012 alone, Africa had 22 competitive elections,” he said.

He informed the summit that in each election in Kenya, as in much of Africa, the Opposition has grown in strength. The 1997 elections left Kanu “severely weakened in a hung Parliament,” he said, and the same trend continued in 2002, 2007 and 2013.

“Almost every improvement that has taken place in Africa has resulted from the push by Opposition and not the willful acts of the ruling parties. These include constitutional, economic, governance and foreign policy reforms,” he said.

He said Kenya’s 2010 Constitution came about due to a relentless push by the Opposition and civil society. He said the greatest promise of the Constitution – devolution of power and resources to regions – was vehemently opposed by the ruling party but was pushed to fruition by the Opposition.

“Today, nearly all African countries have term limits for presidents and prime ministers borne out of an understanding that presidents for life left only a trail of devastation and retrogression in Africa,” he said.

Raila said the “democracy dividend” in Africa has resulted in six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing countries being in Africa. He termed it as monumental leap considering that from 1974 through the mid-1990s, Africa’s growth was all negative. He predicted that in the next decade, Africa’s GDP will rise by an average of six per cent a year, partly due to improved accountability enforced by Opposition parties and other democratic actors.

Changing fortunes

“While so much has been written about Africa’s fortunes changing for the better with regard to economy, human rights and rule of law, very little is said about the resilience and the refusal to let go of Opposition parties which ensured that Africa moves forward against monumental odds,” he said.

He said the contribution of Opposition parties to Africa’s growth has come at a great price. Each country has a long list of sons and daughters who were detained, tortured, paralysed, bankrupted and even murdered for embracing opposition to the regimes, he said.

Raila also said the “tyranny of numbers” theory is one of the emergent forms of hostility towards the Opposition. He said the theory is “plunging the continent into detestable decisions like removal of term limits and reintroducing dictatorship”. “Opposition parties find themselves stifled with great ideas by hostile and unwilling ruling parties working closely with the Executive,” he said.

He said the “gospel” that Opposition supporters will miss out on development unless they join governments and bribery and intimidation of Opposition MPs undermines Opposition parties.

Raila credited the implosion of Opposition parties to the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989. Before then, he said, presidents for life, military and single party dictatorships ruled the landscape while elections were mere formalities.

“In just two decades, 25 out of the 55 countries that make Africa are considered as democracies of varying degrees. In the year 2012 alone, Africa had 22 competitive elections,” he said.

He informed the summit that in each election in Kenya, as in much of Africa, the Opposition has grown in strength. The 1997 elections left Kanu “severely weakened in a hung Parliament,” he said, and the same trend continued in 2002, 2007 and 2013.

“Almost every improvement that has taken place in Africa has resulted from the push by Opposition and not the willful acts of the ruling parties. These include constitutional, economic, governance and foreign policy reforms,” he said.

He said Kenya’s 2010 Constitution came about due to a relentless push by the Opposition and civil society. He said the greatest promise of the Constitution – devolution of power and resources to regions – was vehemently opposed by the ruling party but was pushed to fruition by the Opposition.

“Today, nearly all African countries have term limits for presidents and prime ministers borne out of an understanding that presidents for life left only a trail of devastation and retrogression in Africa,” he said.

Raila said the “democracy dividend” in Africa has resulted in six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing countries being in Africa. He termed it as monumental leap considering that from 1974 through the mid-1990s, Africa’s growth was all negative. He predicted that in the next decade, Africa’s GDP will rise by an average of six per cent a year, partly due to improved accountability enforced by Opposition parties and other democratic actors.

Changing fortunes

“While so much has been written about Africa’s fortunes changing for the better with regard to economy, human rights and rule of law, very little is said about the resilience and the refusal to let go of Opposition parties which ensured that Africa moves forward against monumental odds,” he said.

He said the contribution of Opposition parties to Africa’s growth has come at a great price. Each country has a long list of sons and daughters who were detained, tortured, paralysed, bankrupted and even murdered for embracing opposition to the regimes, he said.

Raila also said the “tyranny of numbers” theory is one of the emergent forms of hostility towards the Opposition. He said the theory is “plunging the continent into detestable decisions like removal of term limits and reintroducing dictatorship”. “Opposition parties find themselves stifled with great ideas by hostile and unwilling ruling parties working closely with the Executive,” he said.

He said the “gospel” that Opposition supporters will miss out on development unless they join governments and bribery and intimidation of Opposition MPs undermines Opposition parties.

 

-www.standardmedia.co.ke

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