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Kenyan PM on Africa's challenges


Kenyan PM on Africa's challenges


Kenya’s current Prime Minister Raila Amolla Odinga was an opposition leader when he ran for president in the December 2007 elections.

The election results were contested: the electoral commission declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner, while Odinga’s supporters alleged electoral manipulation. There followed violent uprisings, throughout the country and nearly 1,500 people died. Eventually Kibaki and Odinga agreed to share power, with the later taking office as prime minister. Odinga believes Africa still has a long way to travel on the path of democracy. Kenya has also to cope with conflicts in two neighbouring countries – Sudan and Somalia. On a visit to Paris, Raila Odinga spoke with euronews about those issues. Olaf Bruns, euronews: “Prime Minister, welcome to euronews. Does the situation in Sudan affect Kenya?” Raila Odinga: “When there was war in the south Sudan, Kenya received very many refugees. The comprehensive peace agreement, that ended the war in the south, was signed in Nairobi. Kenya would like to see the comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan honoured and respected.” euronews: “Another conflict bordering Kenya is Somalia. How is Kenya involved in the international fight against piracy?” Odinga: “Somalia is our neighbour to the east. Unfortunately it has been unstable for close on 20 years. It has never had a stable government. You can say that Somalia is a typical example of a failed state. Piracy is basically an outcome of the political instability in Somalia. We can not finish it on the seas. Ultimately it has to be finished on land. Kenya has been a major victim of the pirate activities in the Indian Ocean. Our costs of doing business have gone up. The insurance companies have increased premiums for goods coming to Kenya.” Further south on the African continent, Zimbabwe tried a solution similar to the Kenyan one. After violently contested elections, President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to share power. But cooperation in Zimbabwe has proved much more difficult that in Kenya. euronews asked Raila Odinga for his opinion of Robert Mugabe. Odinga: “I have always said – and I have no reason to change my mind – that Robert Mugabe is part of the problem. He can not be part of the solution of the problem in Zimbabwe. He is a major cause of it. Mugabe does not want to play by the rules of democracy. He knows that he lost an election, but he refused to honour the verdict of the people in Zimbabwe and imposed himself back into power. The time has come for the international community to speak very strongly with one voice and tell Mr Mugabe: ‘Enough is enough. The time to exit is now.’” euronews: “Can the African Union do something to accelerate this process?” Odinga: “Unfortunately the African Union appears to be impotent in this regard. Because many of its members there have a similar baggage – a very similar baggage like Mr Mugabe. A number of them are products of processes that are not very transparent. I think that like-minded African leaders ought to speak with one voice in this matter. Africa is in transition from a single party to a multi-party democracy. We have not yet reached full democracy.” euronews: “Kenya is struck by a terrible drought. Could you describe the situation?” Odinga: “Right now, close to 10 million people are affected. The pastoral communities who rear cattle, animals, are suffering because their livestock is dying. We have lost close to 200,000 head of cattle. Kenya has – like many African countries – lived between twin disasters: droughts and floods. Climate change has affected Africa very badly.” euronews: “The upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen will try to tackle environmental issues on an international basis. What is Africa asking for – and what is Africa prepared to put on the table?” Odinga: “Africa, basically, is a victim. But we are not going to Copenhagen to play the blame-game: who is the offender, who is the victim. We want to be supported in our programmes for adaptation. And another want is, how to green the energy, because Africa wants to develop like other countries.” euronews: “There is huge debate on the efficiency of development aid, with some economists saying that aid kills individual and collective initiative – and by doing so, also kills development. What’s your opinion on this issue?” Odinga: “Yes, we have seen a period of many years since independence where aid money has been sunk into the African continent without much to show for it. We think that aid perpetrates underdevelopment; because most of that money is misdirected, some of it even finds its way back to the giver. So that’s why we are saying: ‘We have to move away from aid-dependency.’ We want more partnership, we want more investment. We want that the markets will be opened up for us to be able to trade – as we also buy. So that is exchange rather than just patronage.” euronews: “Finally, a son of a son of Kenya has made it into the White House. How does your country feel about that?” Odinga: “It is great that a man of Kenyan decent has been elected as the first African-American president of the United States of America. Kenyans have celebrated – and even announced a national holiday on the day the results were announced. But this is not so much because of his origin from Kenya. Kenyans really associate with Barack Obama because of what he stands for, politically. He came out and said: ‘I’m providing a hand of friendship, not a fist to box you! Let us talk, so that we can together create a peaceful world’.”

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