Raila attacks African presidents

Political leadership in Africa is typified more by grotesque examples than by positive role models, said Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, during his trip to the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga in traditional dress

Prime Minister Raila Odinga in traditional dress

Raila also criticized the African Union for welcoming Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to its summit in Egypt. “The African Union singularly failed in condemning the sham elections in Zimbabwe … You only have to look at the credentials of some of its leaders and know what binds most of them together,” said Raila in remarks likely to distance him from the continent’s leadership.

During his speech at Chatham House, Raila paid tribute to former South African President, Nelson Mandela, Sir Seretse Khama of Botswana and the late Leopold Senghor of Senegal. He described them as positive role models for Africa. The three former African leaders are famous for willingly resigning from power.

According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office, Raila is heading a delegation comprising government officials and private sector representatives that is in London for an investment conference. The conference aims at promoting Kenya. During the trip, Raila met British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown at No. 10 Downing Street.

Raila had harsh words for African leaders: “Mugabe’s victory was accepted by the world’s longest serving President, Omar Bongo of Gabon, with a strange logic. ‘He was elected, he took an oath, and he is with us, so he is President.”

Analysts say that Raila was disappointed by the lack of support he got from the rest of Africa during Kenya’s election crisis early this year. Raila believes he won the 2007 elections and that President Mwai Kibaki robbed him of victory. Majority of African leaders quietly supported Kibaki and a few, such as Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, went ahead and recognized Kibaki’s victory.

The East African weekly reported that during initial mediation following the election crisis, President John Kufuor of Ghana told Raila that he was lucky that Kibaki was willing to talk. Kufuor’s remarks made Raila and the ODM party to reject his involvement.

On Zimbabwe, Raila says that ongoing negotiations should recognize MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as the legitimate winner. However, Zimbabwe did not necessarily have to copy the Kenyan model of a grand coalition government.

In recent weeks, the Zimbabwe government has dismissed Raila’s opinions, saying that Raila has, “blood on his hands.” Violence between Raila supporters and those of President Kibaki left close to a thousand Kenyans dead and half a million displaced. Protests over election results turned into ethnic clashes.

In his London speech, Raila said that Africans should stop blaming the past. “It is pointless for some to look back to yesterday’s colonial period. Most of our people are too young to have known anything except our own independence.”

“Africans may be poor and getting poorer, but Africa is not poor. It has all the resources – human, natural and mineral – it needs for its development, but these have been exploited over the years to support other economies.”

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