Fact-Checking Raila Odinga’s Chatham House Speech

Presidential candidate and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga on March 16, 2022 was at Chatham House, UK, where he presented a speech on the theme: ‘The Importance of Democracy in Africa: Kenya’s Experience’. This came a week after Deputy President William Ruto, a fellow contender for the country’s top seat had a similar forum at Chatham House on March 6, 2022.

Piga Firimbi looked into William Ruto’s speech, finding numerous inaccurate figures on the state of Kenya’s economy. The speech included fallacies on the number of Kenyans blacklisted for defaulting loans and its relation to the labour force, Kenya’s unemployment rate, the input of agriculture to the economy among other claims fact-checked here. His was an exhibition of internal affairs, their impact, and what he aspires to do if elected.

He further let the global audience in on the intricacies of local politics, down to criticising ‘The Handshake’ and also incorporated local political vocabulary in his use of the term “deep state” in his Chatham House speech.

“Today in Kenya we don’t know if the government is in the opposition or it is the opposition that is in the government,” Ruto said.

Raila Odinga on the other hand took a continental approach. He began by introducing himself as an Afro-optimist.

Piga Firimbi looks into the accuracy of some of the claims he made;

You can similarly find yet another fact-check on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 8th state of the nation address here.

The ODM leader in his speech appeared to still identify as the opposition despite the dubiousness of his political stance lately.

  1. Saying that the opposition has been advocating for electoral reforms, Raila Odinga said that after the 2008 “botched elections”, Kenya’s annual growth rate dropped from 8% to 2%.

This is NOT ACCURATE according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Economic Survey 2009 the economic growth in 2008 fell to 1.7% in 2008 from 7.1% in 2007. This is attributed to the 2007 global financial crisis, alongside the post-election violence that followed the December 2007 general elections.

“Economic growth momentum that started in 2003 was restrained by a number of both internal and external factors,” the KNBS report indicates, “these factors included the 2008 post-election disruptions, the global financial crisis, the high fuel and food prices among others.”

“The global financial crisis started in the US in early 2007 but spread out to other economies through a combination of market failures.”- KNBS Economic Survey 2009.

A 2.6% GDP growth rate was recorded in 2009, as illustrated in the KNBS Economic Survey 2010. This was an improvement in comparison to the 1.7% growth rate in 2008. A figure that would drop further to 1.6% as reported in the 2010 Economic Survey.

The 8% growth rate quoted by Raila Odinga is HIGHLY EXAGGERATED. This was not the growth rate in 2008, nor had it been that high in recent years before the post-election violence. The growth rate was at  6.1% in 2006 and 5.7% in 2005 according to the 2007 Economic Survey.

2. “Out of 55 African countries, over 25 are considered democracies of varied degrees,” Raila Odinga said.

This is MOSTLY TRUE: The most recent democracy index- Democracy Index 2021– as released by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) shows that there are 23 democracies of varying degrees in Africa. Although this index leaves out Seychelles, South Sudan, Somalia, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

“The continent has only one full democracy, Mauritius,” the EIU report states. It adds that there are six flawed democracies and 14 hybrid regimes. Tunisia and Morocco, which are listed in the Middle East and North America region are also classified as democracies (hybrid regime), bringing the total of African democracies in this index to 23.

Kenya is a hybrid regime.

In a report by Democracy in Africa, São Tomé and Príncipe is listed among the most democratic countries on the continent. The report also cites the plight of small island states being overlooked in major democracy datasets. The same report shows that Seychelles still grapples with authoritarian rule and political instability. Somalia is listed as an anocratic state. This implies that it has a mix of autocracy and democracy. There is however no data on South Sudan’s democratic status.

3. “Malaria deaths declined by 30%”

This is INACCURATE: The World Malaria Report 2021 shows that Malaria deaths in the WHO African Region reduced by 36%. From 840 000 in 2000 to 534 000 in 2019. 

4. “HIV infections dropped by upto 74%”

This is TRUE for Kenya, according to a UN report.

“New HIV infections in the country (Kenya) have fallen by 77% and AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by 74% from their peak in 2003,” the report shows.

But Mr Odinga was not consistent on whether he was referring to Kenya in particular or the whole of Africa in his speech. In the case that he could be referring to Africa, then he would be WRONG as the figure is 30% reduction in new HIV infections across Africa according to WHO.

5. “At least a dozen Sub-Saharan nations have held or are due to hold presidential/parliamentary elections this year”.

TRUE: According to the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy (EISDA) in Africa, 18 African countries are listed to have their elections in 2022. This information coincides with a separate report on African Arguments, also indicating that 18 African countries will be conducting some form of elections this year.

6.  “Africa had 22 competitive elections in 2012 alone.”

This claim is INACCURATE. 25 African states are listed on the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa to have slated their elections for 2012. While some countries including Kenya postponed their elections, others carried on. According to the EISDA, around 18 countries carried on with the 2012 polls.

Raila’s speech had an outward approach, with a focus on democracy in Africa.

He laments that “In Africa, elections are not judged by how free and fair they are, but how peaceful.”

“Countries that have adapted comfortable democratic governance have made strides on the social and economic fronts.”

Add comment

Your email address will not be published.

Linda Ngari

Linda is a fact-checking and data journalist. She is currently the Piga Firimbi editor. She is passionate about acquiring and utilising OSINT tools and skills to tell stories that matter to a modern day tech-savvy audience in innovative ways.