Presentation by Hon. Raila A. Odinga, Former Prime Minister, Republic of Kenya during the Forum at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Mr Chairman; Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is always an honour for me to have the opportunity to discuss a
subject that ever-remains so close to my heart: democracy, particularly
with special reference to my continent, Africa;
For some people
in this audience, democracy in Africa could be mere theory; safely
commented upon and discussed from the safe confines of the academia or a
For some us though, it has become life;
real life. At your age, my generation of Africans believed there was
only one threat that, once conquered, everything would be fine on our
Growing up in the Africa of the 1950s and 1960s, we believed that once colonialism was defeated, the future would be bliss.
While today we repeatedly say Africa’s future belongs to its young
people, in the Africa of pre and immediate post independence period, the
present and the future were in the hands of the revered founding
fathers. We deeply trusted the founders of our newly independent
The idea that after independence, Africans could once
again take up arms, return to the streets and even to the bushes to
fight fellow Africans who were taking over the reigns of power from the
colonialists was extremely remote.
Independence had come. The
leadership comprised those who had fought for basic freedoms of
expression, speech, association and movement.
We assumed the
leaders understood the pain of being denied these freedoms. They
understood the pain of inequitable distribution of resources.
They knew the pain of being discriminated against on the basis of tribe,
race, religion and place of origin. They would not commit such sins
against their own people.
Today, we know we were wrong. The
struggle that the African people have had to endure in the years after
independence have been as vicious as, sometimes more vicious than, the
ones they waged against the colonialists.
It was a struggle laced
with the pain of being betrayed by a brother, an uncle, a father, a
neighbour, and a friend. Where were we to turn?
This is the
reality this generation of Africans here in Pretoria and across the
Continent have to face. We must never trust individuals. Only
Even more importantly, we bequeath to you that
the reality that freedom, as President Ronal Reagan said, is never more
than a generation from extinction.
It must be fought for,
protected, and handed on to the next generation to do the same, “or one
day, we will spend our sunset years telling our children and their
children how it was once like in a land where men were free.”
Let a young Kenyan, Zimbabwean, Sudanese, South African or Ugandan not
say “the environment is so bad here, let me struggle and get out to
Britain, the U.S, France or any other countries where systems seem to
You have a rendezvous with destiny. To protect
democracy, the youth of Africa must reinvent the spirit of patriotism
that informed our struggle to be free.
And by patriotism, I
don’t mean blind obedience. I mean a deliberate effort by the youth to
treat their countries as the last heaven on earth where if they lose
freedom, there is nowhere to escape to.
You have the
responsibility to tell those in power that the first duty of the
government is to protect the people, not run or ruin their lives.
Sometimes you will succeed in these efforts. Sometimes you will fail.
But there is always an option. You have the energy, the flexibility the
audacity to dream. And you have the numbers.
So do what Reagan told us: “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”
Engage in the affairs of your nation and your parties. Retreat and surrender are never options.
Leaders, elders and pioneers; whether in government or out have a duty
to keep empowering the youth, support their education, strengthen their
grassroots networks and help them keep the flames of liberation burning.
Your generation is coming up well aware that the single goal we were
made to pursue; that of throwing out the colonialists, was not good
We know the colonialists left, but in a number of places, secret admirers took over from where they left.
This generation is therefore confronted with two paths and two
realities. One reality you must grow up with is that the struggle in
You must know that without securing the basic
freedoms, you are on a path to conflict, bloodshed, underdevelopment,
poverty, racism, tribalism and religious intolerance and strife.
The other path will lead you to more democratic space, more opportunities more freedoms. It is the path to take.
Let me conclude by reminding you that there still remain forces that want to perpetuate impunity in the continent.
They scheme to scuttle the free expression of the popular will by
ensuring that even the most expensive electoral technology must fail in
They endorse fraudulent elections, even where all other facts point to the contrary;
They ensure that even judicial decisions are compromised and a far cry
from basic sense of natural justice and expectations, and;
Who knows, they will ensure that any remnants of true African liberators are gagged, hounded and tormented to their graves;
I remain optimistic and emboldened by faith; that with your engagement,
propelled by the history you have been eye witnesses to, Africa will
triumph; the goodness that God intended for all of us will triumph over
And as I said as Prime Minister, Africa remains the next frontier for genuine economic hope, peace and prosperity.
RT. HON. RAILA AMOLO ODINGA