Thursday 19th August 2021 saw ODM leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga endorsed by leaders from Nyanza counties to run for President in next year’s presidential election at a gathering of Nyanza leaders. The following is the full statement made by Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga at the event.
I want to begin by stating that we come here with a message of Unity, Reconciliation, Tolerance and Hope. We said this in Nakuru on Tuesday and we will say it again here.
We must cleanse our country of the spirit of anger and bitterness, the spirit of revenge and entitlement. We must continue on a path that reconciles, unites, calms and stabilizes our country.
We must embrace forgiveness and not vindictiveness. We must make compromises, and form coalitions and alliances for the sake of the nation.
That effort cannot work at the national level when it does not exist in the regions that make up the nation. And so we are here to make a start at home with the assurance that we intend to carry this to the national stage.
Our desire to unite our people and the country, the AZIMIO LA MUUNGANO is a noble and worthy cause. It deserves our support.
Nyanza has done very well on the matter of unity and I want to recognize and thank our people and our leaders for the family spirit that prevails here. The region is cosmopolitan. Different communities have lived peacefully in this region since time immemorial.
Even in the most tense moments in our country, the people of this region have soldiered on fairly peacefully even when they embrace different political affiliations.
We are here to encourage a continuation of this spirit and to strengthen it. But unity can only be as good as the purpose for which it is intended. This time therefore, we want to explore how to turn the peace into prosperity and economic empowerment for this region.
We do this, well aware of the efforts the county governments have made to ensure a shared plan for regional prosperity and stability. We are here to complement those efforts and help do more. This region, like other parts of the country, is feeling the pain of Covid-19.
People lost loved ones, incomes, and jobs. It is our wish that we use these losses and the pain as eye openers on what we must do here, and in other parts of Kenya to build resilient and sustainable livelihoods.
Nyanza is endowed with diverse resources. We have cash crops like tea, coffee, tobacco and sugarcane, minerals like gold and copper, livestock, fish and an array of food crops. With adequate support, our people should be able to do farming on a commercial scale.
So far, we have only scratched the surface with regard to production of food crops and cash crops.We need to focus on how to provide farmers with high yielding seeds, help them with reclamation of the land, preservation of water sources and all else they need to feed the emerging towns and the entire nation.
Very little effort has gone into value addition and industrialization. There is no reason why coffee, tea, bananas and vegetables from Kisii or Kuria cannot be processed here and marketed as refined produce of Kisii or Kuria.
With a better and unified approach to development, we could drastically turn this region around by developing the home -grown industries like soapstone that have accorded livelihoods to our people but at very subsistence level.
The dream of investment in SKILLS AND RURAL TRANSFORMTION FOR LOCAL INDUSTRIALIZATION could easily begin here. We can do more to sufficiently organize the informal food markets where food is bought and sold. Mothers don’t need to make do with the congested spaces as they do today.
We need innovative ways to address the tribulations of rural women and the girl child, including access to credit, health care and education are among the many challenges they face. Empowering women is key to the well-being of individuals, families and overall economic productivity.
We can do more to help the farmers transport food from where surplus is to where it is in short supply. Sugar cane farming, which has long been the lifeline of this region has to be addressed comprehensively and changed radically. As it is today, sugarcane farming impoverishes instead of empowering the farmers.
This region remains deficient in infrastructure especially with regard to access roads to farms and markets and access to reliable and affordable electricity.
Our capacity for Blue Economy remains grossly underutilised. Lake Victoria has much more to offer than just fish. We have not fully explored the lake’s capacity for tourism and maritime transport and aquaculture, among others. Even if we limit ourselves to just fishing, our fishermen are still frustrated by insecurity and lack modern fishing methods and equipment.
As a region, we need to explore innovative ways to support the creation and growth of SMEs, particularly youth owned businesses. Upcoming small scale traders in those markets like Daraja Mbili and others need protection from competition from foreigners and neighboring countries and punitive taxation.
We need to enhance investment in ICT and digital infrastructure to support communications and businesses especially those owned by the youth. We have not done enough to identify and support development of skills and talents especially among the youth.
Take sports for instance. This region has abundance of born soccer wizards and athletes; young boys and girls who, with just a little support, will easily make it to big leagues. But they are mostly on their own. The community football clubs here are struggling and sports facilities are wanting. We need a rethink.
It is possible for us to set up a regional body dedicated to identifying skilled youths, organizing regional competition, organizing training camps for them and helping them access opportunities locally and abroad.
Our most precious resource here and as a country is our people. The healthier the people, the stronger we are and the better our ability to grow from our own efforts. We need to pool efforts and resources and ensure that the region has a robust primary public healthcare system, starting from the family level to the public healthcare delivery system as a whole.
As a region that borders other countries, we are particularly vulnerable to policies of our neighbors. We have seen that during this pandemic and with regard to security. We therefore need to invest in health and security infrastructure that can withstand attacks.
We need to always put our heads together and ensure substantial increase in the number of medical institutions, medical staff, clinics and hospital beds and access to a diverse choice of quality and healthy foods.
Parents in this region, just like parents in the rest of the country treasure the education of their children. We join them in this.
But recent policy changes like the 100 percent transition, which we fully support, require that we do more for education. Schools are bursting at the seams. The recommended teacher-student ratio is failing and that will have consequences for our children.
We have to institute partnerships between national and county governments to address the issues of infrastructure in schools without wasteful and unnecessary duplication.
So, ladies and gentlemen, we are here to appeal that we join hands as a region, get our political act together, pull in one direction and use the unity to create opportunities for our people and the nation in return.
If we are able to pull together as a region, identify our priorities together, back it up with political goodwill and unity, nothing will stop us from addressing the development needs of our people.
Already, our governors have started us off in this direction by coming together as Lake Region Economic Bloc. That declaration needs to be cascaded to our villages and homes. It must be strengthened through concrete actions that uplift the lives of our people.
With unity, we can achieve it. Let us join hands and walk together as a region and as a country.
I thank you.