Wajir — Former high school teacher Mohammed Abduba Dida surprised many when he recently declared that he would run for president of Kenya.
Running as the Alliance for Real Change party candidate, Dida will be the first Somali-Kenyan politician and the first from Kenya's North Eastern Province to seek the highest office in the country.
Dida spoke to Sabahi about his motivation and agenda for the country.
Sabahi: Why are you running for the presidency?
Mohammed Abduba Dida: I am running because of the hopes that were created by the new constitution and the plight of ordinary Kenyans who struggle in vain. I want to ensure that the available opportunities are exploited for the nation's economic and social progress. The country has had many gains over the past 10 years, but we can do better. The growth of the economy is slow in a country that has great potential, and this is creating discontent among those being left behind. Everything the country needs to grow is here, but it requires political will, which I strongly believe I have.
Sabahi: What is your agenda for the country?
Dida: I want to restore humanity in leadership and governance by completely wiping out bad leadership, and installing maturity, responsibility, equity and accountability in leadership.
I will seek to address the overall quality of life, promote family values, eradicate poverty, promote sectarian cohesion and tolerance and utilise the country's intellects. All corners of the country and all economic sectors need to grow at the same pace. Some of the institutions need to be strengthened or revived and the infrastructure must be improved.
Sabahi: Why did you wait until the end of January to announce your interest in the presidency?
Dida: I may not have been in the public limelight, but I was nevertheless campaigning, although the media in Kenya avoided covering my events. In any case, I wanted to be sure that I was cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on January 28th before I hit the road. At the same time, I was following the IEBC guidelines that stipulated that official campaigns begin two days after being cleared.
Sabahi: If elected, how will your government ensure that education is promoted throughout the country?
Dida: I will implement a universal and accessible [education] system that promotes [critical] thinking and application, instead of the current system, which is exam-oriented.
Sabahi: What opportunities are available in Kenya?
Dida: For a long time, the country has only focused on opportunities available within [its boundaries], but we also have opportunities beyond the border. We have an innovative and informed human resource that is in demand, not only in the region, but even abroad. The human resource is a way to quick and rapid economic development. We have a surplus of human resources that need to be utilised and exported.
In Kenya we have numerous natural resources in cultivable land, tourist attraction sites, minerals and a favourable climate that will need to be exploited.
Sabahi: How will you ensure that development is not concentrated only in Nairobi?
Dida: The constitution is clear that it places power in the each of the 47 counties to replace the eight provinces. I will make sure county governments are independent and empowered to work competitively through fair and equitable distribution. I will ensure these county governments create avenues of employment that will eventually decongest Nairobi. This will eventually see urban to rural migration.
In addition, I will deal with the corruption that led to the skewed allocation in the first place. Some regions are behind in economic development. My leadership will come with policies that will enable the fast-tracking of development of those regions so that they can be on par with the rest of the country so that we can move together.
Sabahi: How do you plan to tackle insecurity in Kenya?
Dida: I will empower all government security agencies so they can play a proactive role rather than a reactive one. I believe intelligence gathering is the first line of defence from internal and external threats. Intelligence gathering will need to be up to date [to address] the ever-evolving threats of insecurity including terrorism. At the same time, the communities will need to fully know their role in co-operating with security officers to ensure the safety for all.
Sabahi: How will you promote a culture of responsibility and a sense of belonging among the diverse communities in Kenya?
Dida: My government will be a representative one that strongly believes in consulting with [all Kenyan communities] and values the individual potential [of citizens]. No one in the ecosystem is useless. All Kenyans have specific potentials that must be tapped.
There are notions among some communities who feel [left out] that they are in the country [only] because of a geographical demarcation. This has been brought about by years of neglect by the central government that pushed those communities to the periphery. Regions in the north and south of Kenya have poor infrastructure, which is essential in spurring development. The same regions also lack social amenities and adequate health care and academic institutions. But I will target these regions in all development plans to restore the waning pride and sense of belonging.
Sabahi: How will you promote religious harmony?
Dida: Your religion is your opinion and all opinions must be respected and accommodated as spelt in the constitution. We have freedom of worship.
Sabahi: What is the significance of being the first Somali-Kenyan to seek the presidency?
Dida: This will not only bring attention to our existence, but will also ensure that we have the right to be involved in national politics. It is a chance for the majority to test what the minority has to offer.