REMARKS OF RT. HON RAILA ODINGA, EGH, AT WESTERN KENYA LEADERS/PROFESSIONALS FORUM:
KAKAMEGA, 10th September 2021.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
We have come to western Kenya with a message of peace, unity and stability that will enable us create lasting prosperity for the Mulembe nation and the country as a whole.
This is why we started this journey last month, with Azimio la Umoja or a call to unity of the nation.
We recognize that no economic model, however well crafted, can thrive in an environment of chaos, disunity and instability.
We recognize that the Mulembe Nation comprises diverse groups of people, with diverse challenges and aspirations but with one destiny as one people. We are here to reinforce that sense of shared destiny and to deliberate on how it translates into better terms of engagement with the Kenyan nation.
We envisage a Kenya that is a sum total of the aspirations of its regions, tribes, ethnic groups, faiths, social class and demographic compositions. A nation in which no one feels cheated or left out. That is what is what we call SHARED PROSPERITY. It begins with planting the spirit of Unity, Reconciliation, Tolerance and Hope. It begins with us seeing each other not as enemies to be subdued but partners to be embraced in search of the wellbeing of our people.
That is the spirit of Azimio La Umoja that we bring here today.
We are not looking for followers or bystanders. We are looking for partners and active players; men, women and youth on the same journey, same mission, with one agenda.
With that partnership, we can all come to the table and begin a candid discussion on what is holding back our people here.
We can discuss what is ailing our counties, constituencies, wards and villages and how to improve them.
This region has a rich agricultural land for a variety of crops. It has minerals. It has potential for blue economy via Lake Victoria and potential for industrialization and value addition.
With unity, we can get to the negotiation table and demand a fair shot at agribusiness, value addition in agriculture, better methods of mining and better focused investment in industrialization.
Lack of unity can make a community and a region to miss out even on obvious opportunities like revival of Mumias Sugar. We recently saw this in the push and pull that characterized efforts to lease Mumias Sugar to enable it roar life and provide jobs again.
The partnership we seek here is neither new nor impossible. We have had it before, with spectacular results. Sons and daughters of this region stood hand in hand with other freedom fighters and delivered us from colonialism. Sons and daughters of this region stood with other compatriots to deliver the Second Liberation.
In our quest for a Third Liberation in which we seek lasting unity and stability of the nation, creation of viable and credible opportunities for our youth and prosperity for all, we once again need the partnership and active involvement of the Mulembe nation.
This push we are embarking on must lead to the transformation of the country especially rural areas.
It must ensure massive investment in rural infrastructure of access roads, railways and water ways as a long-term priority in county national development agenda.
It must ensure proper investment in food and agricultural production.
Counties here are experimenting with investment in various produce like African Indigenous Vegetables.
It is a worthy effort that needs support through investment in value addition and rural industrialization.
The women engaged in growing in MRENDA in Vihiga for instance should be enabled to produce it in large quantities, preserve it and market it as a product of Vihiga.
The same support should be extended to farmers who have taken to fast yielding ground nuts in places Khwisero here in Kakamega. Poultry farmers in places like Ikonyero here in Kakamega need to be helped to access markets that ensure they get good prices for their produce. Promotion of cottage industries in rural Kenya is a must going forward.
It must lead to reliable and cheap electricity, clean water and good public schools in rural areas.
Children and parents in rural areas must be confident that the education they are receiving is not in any way inferior to that of their counterparts in urban
And we must do more to sufficiently organize markets where food is bought and sold. Traders need better, less congested and cleaner spaces to sell their produce while taking care of their health too.
This region is known for excellent sports men and women; excellent soccer players and athletes, young boys and girls who need just a little push to beat the best in the world.
Vihiga Queens has just earned a ticket to the continental CAF Women Champions league. Their top scorer Jentrix Shikangwa has suddenly become a household name, just like sprinter Ferdinand Omunyala. But this potential in western Kenya is struggling and underperforming. We have not done enough to identify and support skills and talents among our youth.
Sports is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Yet community football clubs here are struggling to stay afloat. AFC Leopards Football Club is struggling, just like its rival Gor Mahia. We must think seriously about how to turn sports into an industry in this region. We need to think seriously about how to identify skilled youths, organize training and competitions for them and expose them to opportunities locally and abroad.
We must radically transform Sugar cane farming in this entire region to make it pay instead of impoverishing people.
We must provide our fishermen in Busia and border traders in Bungoma with the security and facilities they need. The constant harassment in the lake and around the border is undermining their ability to fend for their families.
We must provide reliable, efficient, affordable and quality health care to this region. COVID-19 has shown us how lack of modern, well-quipped and well-staffed health facilities and lack of health insurance can impoverish people especially in rural areas. This is one challenge we must confront with a single-minded unity of purpose.
We must use the pain and losses as eye openers on what we must do here, and in other parts of Kenya to build resilient and sustainable livelihoods.
These are part of the reasons we are pushing for more resources to come to the counties and even to the wards. We must join hands and continue with that push.
And we must ensure that going forward, Kenya becomes known for peaceful, free and fair elections. The people of Busia, Teso or Bungoma don’t need to flee their homes every election time because of violence.
The unity we are pursuing is therefore not about where we are coming from. It is about where we want to go as a region and a nation.
That is why at the launch of Azimio la Muungano last month, I emphasized that the time has come for us to cleanse our country of the spirit of anger and bitterness and the spirit of revenge and entitlement.
We must get on to the path of reconciliation, unity and stability.
We must embrace forgiveness.
We must partnerships not foment divisions.
And we must humble ourselves. Kenya does not owe anybody any debt. Instead, as leaders and citizens, we owe Kenya a debt.
Together, with humility, we can bring prosperity to our people.
I thank you.