CORD leader Raila Odinga has blamed “ethnic chauvinists” for preventing the Kikuyus, and the Central Kenya population generally, from voting for him.
The former Prime Minister said that Kikuyus do not vote for him as a Luo, because there is massive propaganda that he does not work well with them.
This, he said in an interview with Al Jazeera aired on Friday night, has created a wedge between him and Kikuyu voters.
“I work with Kikuyus. My legal adviser is a Kikuyu. I have a lot of Kikuyus who work with me. But Kikuyus have not voted for me because, basically, there is this propaganda spread by ethnic chauvinists to keep them away from me,” Raila said.
He told Al Jazeera’s Head to Head programme in an interview that Kikuyus and Luos have always worked together, but the Central Kenyans never vote for him.
He said he was instrumental in ensuring former President Mwai Kibaki won during the 2002 general election.
“It has not always been like that. When [Jomo] Kenyatta was in prison, my father, who was a Luo, Oginga Odinga, led the campaign for the release of Kenyatta. In 2002, I came up and said ‘Kibaki Tosha’, went out and campaigned for Kibaki, a Kikuyu, and the Luos voted for Kibaki 98.5 per cent,” Raila said.
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At Independence, Founding President Kenyatta appointed Raila's father Odinga the Founding Vice-President.
Raila has run for President thrice, twice losing to a Kikuyu opponent – Kibaki in 2007 and Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013.
In 1997, the only Presidential election he says he lost fairly, Raila came in third after then President Daniel arap Moi and Kibaki.
The ODM leader has claimed that he had his victory stolen the two times that he has lost to a Kikuyu candidate, though he could not prove this at the Supreme Court after the 2013 election.
In 2008, the Kriegler Commission that probed the 2007 disputed poll said that both Raila’s side and Kibaki’s were involved in rigging.
But Raila disputes this narrative, saying he was a clear favourite at the 2007 elections and it was the incumbent, Kibaki, who rigged the election.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. We did not, in 2007, try to rig the election. We never have any reason to cheat because we are always very confident that we are going to win,” Raila said during the interview.
During the 2007 elections, Raila got less than two per cent of the votes in the predominant Kikuyu region of Central Kenya.
The same pattern was repeated at the 2013 polls, where Uhuru got more than 98 per cent in all the counties in Central Kenya.
With the 2017 election early campaigns under way, Raila is most likely to face Uhuru again on the Presidential ballot.
Raila however has always had Kikuyus in his campaigns, but has also fallen out with them later on.
Two of the most prominent Raila supporters from Central Kenya have been businessman Peter Kuguru and one-time Attorney General Charles Njonjo.
Some of those who have worked with him include political commentator Ngunjiri Wambugu, communication consultant Tony Gachoka and politicians Margaret Wanjiru, Rachel Shebesh and Stephen Kariuki.
The 2007 election led to the post-election violence crisis that saw 1,300 people killed and 650,000 displaced from their homes.
Raila’s supporters went to the streets protesting his “stolen” election after Kibaki was declared President. Their slogan was “No Raila, No Peace”. The greatest post-Independence crisis pitted the Kikuyus against the Kalenjins.
During the interview, Raila said he and his supporters were not out to incite people to violence if he loses the next election.
However, Raila warned during the interview that Kenya has yet to deal with the triggers of the 2008 post-election violence by failing to reform the electoral commission.
“We need to address factors that may lead us to a state of violence such as that we witnessed in 2008. We will not go to the gallows. If the Electoral Commission is not properly reformed, there would definitely be no reason for us to participate in the coming elections,” he told Al Jazeera.
If he wins the next election, Raila has said that he will focus on dealing with the corruption, tribalism and inequality that face the country.
On corruption, Raila will send individuals who are involved in graft to jail, if he is elected President next year.
“When was the last time that a high-profile Kenyan political was sent to prison for corruption?” Head to Head host Mehdi Hasan asked Raila.
“I don't remember,” Raila said, after mentioning that there are people who had been charged in court for corruption.
“Will you put people behind bars when elected President?” Hasan asked the ODM leader.
“Certainly... certainly,” the former PM said.
Raila said that when he was Prime Minister in the grand coalition government he sacked “three or four” people in his office who were involved in corruption.
The Cord leader however refrained from naming these individuals he said he had sacked following an email from his adviser Sarah Elderkin, read to him on the show.
“When we came to government we reduced the amount of corruption. Unfortunately, some of ourselves actually allowed ourselves to be involved in this graft. I accept that some of my allies were involved in corruption. And when I was Prime Minister, I suspended two ministers,” Raila said.