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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Are you planning to shift from Lang'ata? Hon. Raila Odinga answers your questions

QUESTION: You said secondary education will be funded by stolen taxpayers’ money in overseas bank accounts; how long will it take you to recover this money?
Lugohe Humphrey,
Senende.

ANSWER: I meant that this country can afford free secondary education if we recover stolen public funds and seal all the loopholes that have enabled the funds to be siphoned out of the country. I intend to seal loopholes in the current system that has seen Sh50 billion siphoned out. It is from these savings that not only free secondary education will be funded, but also other social amenities such as health and decent housing.


Some ODM leaders close to you have been implicated in corruption and funds mismanagement; will you appoint them to the Cabinet?
Gitari Njagi,
Kasarani, Nairobi.

The Constitution guarantees that all of us are innocent till proved guilty, and appointments to the Cabinet are subject to one being elected MP first. It’s true that some of our members have pending court cases relating to corruption. My government will respect the rule of law, and if any of our members is found guilty then justice will take its course.

I must stress, however, that witch-hunting in the guise of fighting corruption will not be entertained.


You have talked about reducing the prices of commodities, which is a good idea, but how do you plan to address the issue of high production costs?
Eric Wekesa,
Nairobi.

Consumer prices for most basic items have skyrocketed in the past four years. During my vision launch, I said my priority will be infrastructure, infrastructure and infrastructure.

I propose to lower the cost of production by investing in physical infrastructure. The railway system, to which previous regimes have not added an inch, must once again be the primary means of large-scale, heavy-load transportation as the costs involved are lower than those by road. I will also modernise the port of Mombasa and transform it into a duty-free port modelled on the Dubai one.

I will invest more in the energy sector, reduce power tariffs and encourage the use of more biofuels.


If you are elected, how will you ensure that politicians do not position themselves to retain their current Cabinet positions?
Jeff Kens,
Eldoret.

The team we have is dominated by people who championed the course of reforms that the Bomas Draft envisaged. We have been joined by other reformists like Mrs Charity Ngilu who are interested in transforming this country. I am contesting the presidency on a platform of complete and real change.


Your biographer seems to suggest that you played a role in the 1982 abortive coup; do you have any regrets?
Munjiru Anne,
Kabete.

The book you are referring to was an independent work that I did not commission. I played no part in the coup attempt. In 1982, I was charged with and acquitted by the High Court of any crime relating to the coup attempt. It’s an insult to the military top brass to insinuate that a civilian can plan a coup within their ranks. More importantly, I regret that lives were lost.


You have promised a new constitution within six months if you come to power; does it mean you will thereafter cede presidential powers to the prime minister?
Nyingi John,
Nyeri.

Yes, we will enact a new constitution within six months. We will work closely alongside the Bomas Draft that was mutilated by the current regime. Very soon we shall be unveiling steps we intend to take to unveil a new constitution in six months after taking over the government.


It is said that Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga is being protected by powerful people close to retired President Moi and in the current government, some of whom are said to be in ODM; please comment.
Ken Momanyi,
Nairobi.

If Felicien Kabuga is in Kenya while I’m president, I will hand him over to the international court for trial. In my government, the charade of mamlukis will not be tolerated, nor will people in my government be spared if they engage in practices that may lead to ethnic tensions as happened in Rwanda.


Have you signed a memorandum of understanding with running mate Musalia Mudavadi so that, if you win, he will take over from you in 2012?
Bonface Witaba,
Nairobi.

My MoU with Mr Mudavadi is in the public domain. He is my running mate, and therefore will be the vice-president in my government. In the Pentagon, I am but the team leader — first among equals.


How will your ideals of social democracy help to address the scandalous gap between the rich and poor in Kenya?
Kabue Njoroge,
Korogocho, Nairobi.

Social democracy, or the Third Way as it is commonly known, instructs that social justice be realised through a capitalist system. I do not believe in the high income discrepancy between junior and senior civil servants. As the Third Way propagates, I will work within the rubric of a capitalist system with a human face. We want to devolve the resources to the grassroots to help alleviate poverty.

We want to empower people who are ready to work hard and make an honest living.


What is your response to the recent claim by Finance minister Amos Kimunya that the drop in share prices at the Nairobi Stock Exchange is due to opinion polls in which you lead?
Renaldo D’Souza,
Nairobi.

Mr Kimunya’s remarks are unfortunate coming from the minister responsible for the Treasury and who therefore has the fiduciary duty of calming the market. Stock markets are generally jittery at the end of the year, more so during a general election.

It’s only natural to expect the market to oscillate from time to time, and this ought not to be pegged on the opinion polls. The current index is no different from what was witnessed prior to the 1997 and 2002 general elections, and I know Mr Kimunya does not suggest that both dips were precipitated by President Kibaki’s candidacy.


Don’t you think the Orange symbols being used by the two ODM groups will cause confusion during voting?
Midow Bonny,
Nairobi.

Not at all. We in ODM, being the original owners of the full Orange, have noticed that the country will differentiate between the two symbols. The presidential opinion polls also confirm this as the party ratings are almost at par with the candidate’s. We are also going to conduct vigorous civic education campaigns and hope to see the Electoral commission do the same across the country.


How do you intend to protect Kenyan industries from cheap imports from China and other countries?
Dr Kowino J.O,
Nairobi.

By engaging in bilateral negotiations with the Chinese government to control the flow of imports. I also intend to empower the Kenya Bureau of Standards to have the capacity to develop standards and actually implement them by carrying out inspections at the ports of entry.


What measures are you going to take to ensure sugarcane farmers and the industry at large contribute to the growth of the economy?
Benson Otieno,
Nairobi.

Sugar production plays an integral role in the economy. This regime, just as the past ones, has not given the industry the support it deserves. Other farm produce like coffee and macadamia have received immense financial support from the Government. To remedy the situation, I intend to seek an extension from Comesa to safeguard the quota on the amounts of sugar that may be imported duty-free to protect the cane producers from being swamped by cheap imports.


If you are elected president, how will you deal with ministers who talk ill of your administration from within?
Simon King’ori,
Nairobi.

In ODM, we have maintained the principle of unity in diversity. We have always entertained divergent opinions and resolved them internally and amicably. It is the same principle that we intend to apply once in government.


How do you intend to use your Pan Africanist credentials to foster peace and stability in the eastern Africa region?
James Opiyo-Wandayi,
Nairobi.

I will walk the path trodden by both Kwame Nkurumah (of Ghana) and (Tanzania’s) Julius Nyerere who dreamt of a United States of Africa. I also enjoy very cordial relations with most of the East African leaders. I intend to leverage this goodwill to bring on board all the protagonists and other like-minded panAfricanists to find lasting peace in the region.


Some ODM supporters say they will stop paying matatu fares and house rents if the party ascends to power; how do you plan to handle the unrealistic expectations?
Joseph Magiri,
Nairobi.

In my government there will be no joy-riders. People have to work and pay for the services they get; they must pay all taxes due. Let me add that I have a lot of respect for private property and I have never asked people to stop paying their rents. But I’ve asked landlords not to exploit the housing shortage in Nairobi by increasing rents indiscriminately. I am also a landlord in Nairobi and I cannot ask people renting my house not to pay rent.


Will you have your portrait on the currency if you are elected?
Joe Gituto,
Nairobi.

No.


Ethics permanent secretary John Githongo showed commitment to fighting high-level corruption; do you envisage him playing any role in your government’s efforts to fight graft?
Eric Kathenya,
Nairobi.

I worked closely with Mr Githongo and I know he is a patriotic Kenyan committed to fighting high-level corruption. I leave it to him to decide if he’ll be happy to serve in my government. If he is willing to serve, then at the appropriate time, we will sit down and find an appropriate position for him. He will be considered alongside other qualified Kenyans who merit positions in the anti-corruption commission.


How will the majimbo system you are pushing benefit a poor province like North Eastern?
Abdiwahid Khalif,
Habaswein.

A devolved government entails a deliberate affirmative action that equitably distributes resources to address past unjust allocations and expands the opportunity to create wealth by mainstreaming the rural population’s participation in economic activity.

North Eastern region will get a share of the 60 per cent revenue allocated by the central government to the regions countrywide. North Eastern will then prioritise its development needs and use the funds to meet such needs. The region, as the others, will be allowed to collect local taxes as it deems fit.


It is said that your opponents have imported voters into Lang’ata to vote you out and that you may switch to Bondo; is this true?
Mike Nyagol,
Nairobi.

There is some truth in the rumour that my opponents are importing and manipulating the election register in Lang’ata. The Office of the President has bought the register. However, there is no truth in the claim that I plan to move from Lang’ata. I am a national leader who has represented a cosmopolitan constituency since 1992.


A bill was recently passed in Parliament that denies people who leave employment prematurely access to their pensions until they attain age 55. If elected, will you seek to repeal this bad law?
S. Lumidi,
Nairobi.

The world over, best practices as regarding pension schemes dictate that contributors be allowed to withdraw some amounts for emergency purposes. In the US, for example, contributors are allowed to withdraw a percentage which has to repaid with interest. I believe such a system can work in Kenya too, especially since our life expectancy is much lower.

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