The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Don't Call Me 'Prime Minister', Says Raila

CORD leader Raila Odinga yesterday asked Kenyans not to refer to him as Prime Minister. He was attending the burial of former KNUT secretary general David Okuta in Ahero, Kisumu county with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Raila said it was time to reconcile the country while the President reiterated that he was ready to work with everyone including the former PM. Raila wondered why people were unable to call him just by his name. Several leaders during the ceremony referred to him as Right Honorable the Prime Minister while others were confused over which title to use. "I have seen people having difficulties in addressing me. Some have said 'retired', others 'former.' I have just moved on. Don't have difficulties addressing me. I am Raila Amollo Odinga," he told the mourners.

Raila said that it is possible to work with those one has competed with. "We want to reconcile our country and move on. We had that competition. We competed with (former President) Kibaki, and we worked together. Waswahili husema, kuvunjika kwa mwiko, sio mwisho wa upishi (the breaking of cooking stick is not the end of the cooking)," said Raila.

This was the second time the two have met since Uhuru was sworn in as the fourth president on April 9. Last Saturday, Uhuru and his Deputy President William Ruto held a surprise meeting with Raila and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka at State House, Nairobi.

It was agreed that Raila and Kalonzo would keep a security detail of 12 officers in recognition of their past status. Also discussed was the formation of the government to ensure all Kenyans feel included.

Yesterday, when he addressed the mourners after Raila, Uhuru stated that he is ready to work with everyone including Raila. He said competition in politics should not be misconstrued as enmity.

"I look forward to working with all, including my brother Raila Odinga, who is indeed my elder brother," said Uhuru. This was his first trip outside Nairobi city since he was sworn in as President.

Uhuru said he will soon return to Kisumu and visit the counties of Siaya and Migori to discuss with the governors and local leaders how the national government can work with the county governments. He said living standards can only be uplifted if all leaders agree to work together.

Both Raila and Uhuru paid tribute to the late Okuta saying he was a strong defender of teachers' welfare. Uhuru vowed to stick by Okuta's family "in all ways possible". Uhuru flew to Kisumu in a military helicopter with Nairobi governor Evans Kidero.

Among those who attended the burial were former Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli, KNUT chairman Wilson Sossion, governors, senators and about 11 members of the National Assembly. Okuta died on April 2 at the Rongai Women's Hospital where he had been rushed after experiencing breathing problems.

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