Kenya 2022: Raila promises the moon with Azimio manifesto

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Kenya 2022: Who will win the great race?

By Jeff Otieno
Posted on Tuesday, 21 June 2022 13:53, updated on Wednesday, 29 June 2022 11:55

Kenya's Opposition leader Raila Odinga names his running mate, in Nairobi
Kenya's Opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga chats with Martha Karua, his newly declared running mate, during the 'Azimio la Umoja' (Declaration of Unity) rally, at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) Nairobi, Kenya May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

Presidential candidate Raila Odinga's Azimio coalition manifesto promises voters a range of freebies that many political analysts believe will be impossible to fully deliver if he wins the 9 August elections. Will Kenya's 22 million registered voters take the bait?

Pomp and grandiloquence were the order of the day for the much-anticipated 6 June launch of the 47-page Azimio La Umoja – One Kenya Coalition party manifesto, which has since been developed into a more detailed 84-page version.

The 100-plus guests who converged at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium celebrated the document as “the panacea for Kenya’s socio-economic problems”. Not to be outdone, Raila declared it as the “beginning of a new journey for Kenya”.

“The day will go down in history as one of the most memorable days of our times,” he told the crowd. “This is a result of a very lengthy consultative process with the people of Kenya.”

The former prime minister pledged that Kenyans would begin to see positive results in the first 100 days of his administration.

Cost of living

According to the 10-point manifesto, an Azimio government would adopt a three-pronged approach of economic revolution, good governance and social transformation to address the country’s socio-economic ills.

Top of the agenda would be to lower the cost of living by implementing an economic stimulus programme in the first 100 days in order to stabilise the prices of basic commodities, whose rapid rise has left many Kenyans both hungry and angry.

Raila and his running mate Martha Karua have also pledged to lay the foundation needed to transform Kenya into a middle-income nation by encouraging the growth of local industries across the country in order to help increase the manufacturing’s share of gross domestic product from 7.5% to at least 30%.

The sector’s share of GDP has declined by almost a third over the past decade, the manifesto states, thus negatively affecting industrialisation. This is “heavily attributed to the high cost of power and finance”, the document says.

The Azimio coalition also commits to grow the agricultural sector’s contribution to GDP from 23% to 30% through the use of affordable Kenyan manufactured machinery to improve productivity while simultaneously creating jobs for millions of youths.

A government is not a social worker who must dish out money to everybody who has one need or the other.

On the education front, the party promises to adopt a ‘no child left behind policy’ by ensuring free quality education for all, while also equipping the country’s youth with the knowledge and skills to turn them into problem-solvers.

“Our government will prioritise science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] as a key component from early childhood through to graduate education,” Raila said, “ensuring our graduates are prepared to meet the challenges of the modern day workforce.”

Universal healthcare

The coalition also pledges to invest in universal healthcare, declaring it the responsibility of the government to ensure that citizens have access to quality and affordable care.

Raila and his team also promised to implement a social protection programme dubbed inua jamii (support a family) by providing KSh6000 ($51) per month to the country’s two million most needy and vulnerable households.

The programme “should not be viewed as a handout, but as an investment and a foundation for a new transformational value-chain that will also trigger economic activity”, says the manifesto.

To help realise this social protection dream, the coalition party commits to increasing the budgetary allocation to county governments to not less than 35% of shareable revenue.

It also calls for setting up a neutral mechanism to disburse the funds to both national and county governments. The move is aimed at addressing the perennial problem of delays in disbursement of funds to counties, which has affected service delivery at the local level.

To tame the rising cases of  insecurity in both urban and rural areas, Azimio promises to assign at least six officers who are well trained and equipped in every police station to protect civilians and their property.

The document acknowledges that the country’s massive debt, which currently stands at KSh8.6trn ($73bn) and is expected to rise further, poses a major threat to economic stability. Raila’s coalition pledges to restructure and re-profile the country’s debt portfolio to achieve debt sustainability and reduce the burden on future generations.

Zero tolerance for corruption

The coalition behemoth commits to govern on the basis of zero tolerance for corruption by enhancing and fast-tracking the necessary legal and administrative reforms to take on a scourge that has long plagued the country.

“We will also direct parliament to establish mechanisms to facilitate the expeditious investigation, prosecution and trial of cases relating to corruption and integrity,” Raila said.

It will be extremely difficult for both Azimio and [Deputy President William Ruto’s] Kenya Kwanza coalitions to fight corruption

The promise was music to the ears of David Nyachae, a trader in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate who watched the launch on television.

“The fight against corruption, youth empowerment and affordable healthcare were my priorities, and the manifesto explains how they will be addressed,” he says.

His colleague Robert Mutua however describes the document as full of grandiloquent promises that will prove impossible to honour.

“It will be extremely difficult for both Azimio and [Deputy President William Ruto’s] Kenya Kwanza coalitions to fight corruption given that both sides have individuals who are tainted to the core,” says Mutua. “I do not believe what the manifesto says.”

Government can’t do everything

Kwame Owino, the chief executive of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a public policy think tank in Nairobi, is also sceptical about some of the promises made. He says it’s unclear whether the coalition understands that “a government is not a social worker who must dish out money to everybody who has one need or the other.”

“Though there are many issues Azimio got right in its manifesto, I don’t think there is a commitment to say ‘we will only do things that [the] government should do and let the public decide for themselves on other issues’,” says the self-identified liberatarian.

Owino warns that if Azimio forms the next government it might find itself in a situation where it spreads the KSh3.3trn($28bn) budget for the 2022/23 financial year “too thin” because it wants to do everything.

“If there is one thing we have learned from the outgoing Jubilee administration, it is that it is prudent for [the] government to choose what programs/projects it has to do and do them extremely well rather than try to do everything,”Owino says.

He adds that Azimio’s tax holiday and tax exemption policies for favoured demographics and special interest groups will also be almost impossible to apply fairly.

It is not all about the president doing his mandate alone, but a value chain that also involves counties performing their responsibilities.”

David Osiany, the chief administrative secretary at the ministry of trade and enterprise development, however believes the commitments made are not impossible to achieve if everyone plays their part.

The discipline must start from all of us,” Osiany says. “It is not all about the president doing his mandate alone, but a value chain that also involves counties performing their responsibilities.”

Joy Kiiru, an economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi, concurs, noting that manifestos are mostly just promises aimed at winning votes. She says the hard work will begin when the winning team forms its government.

“That is when the rubber meets the road,” Kirru says, “and voters will have an opportunity to know whether it was all empty talk or serious commitments.”

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