Talks on polls collapse as Nasa calls for ‘peaceful protests’

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati (right) and commissioner Paul Kurgat address the media at Bomas of Kenya on September 28, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Meeting between IEBC, Raila and Uhuru teams flops after MPs allied to Jubilee join forces to fast-track election law changes .
  • Nasa leaders storm out of session and call for street protests to campaign against “plot to take country back to dictatorship’.
  • IEBC blames bill for the impasse but says it will convene another meeting to be attended by Uhuru and Raila only.

Hopes of holding a repeat presidential election on October 26 were on Thursday hanging by a thread after talks between the Jubilee Party and the opposition coalition to agree on sticky issues flopped.

The National Super Alliance protested after the Jubilee Party pushed through bills to amend election laws, and called for mass protests on Mondays and Fridays from next week in what it described as an effort to “liberate the country from a Jubilee attack”.

Unfazed by the opposition’s protests, Jubilee MPs in Parliament shortened the period for maturity of the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2017, which among others issues, seeks to dilute the position of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman, entrench election results forms, provide for both manual and electronic transmission of the results — with the former prevailing in case of a contention — and punishment of candidates who withdraw from a repeat presidential election. The maturity period for all bills is set at 14 days but MPs changed the deadline for the election laws amendment to just a day.

The IEBC, while stating that it was preparing for the repeat elections as announced, said the proposed changes to the election laws were unnecessary because all the commission required was a freehand to carry out its mandate.

WALKED OUT OF MEETING

At the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, the Nasa team led by Siaya Senator James Orengo, walked out of a meeting convened by IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati to pave the way for the election, accusing the Jubilee administration of insincerity and erecting roadblocks in the way of a free and credible poll.

It was understood that the Nasa team took the decision to snub the meeting after their plea to have the formal introduction of the bill halted pending the outcome of the consultative talks. The opposition coalition had maintained that enactment of the Election Laws Bill and the Election Offences (Amendment) Bill 2017 should have been put off, since it would have serious implications on the fresh election.

However, a source said that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s team, led by Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki refused to have the bills itemized as an agenda of the meeting and urged the Nasa team to channel their concerns through the laid-down parliamentary procedures.

ELECTIONS

“We cannot apologise for our majority in the two Houses,” a source quotes Prof Kindiki as telling Nasa during the meeting. “When the Supreme Court delivered a majority ruling it was fine with you. When we exercise our powers using our majority in the parliamentary process it becomes bad? No way.”

Mr Orengo said the bills, if enacted,  will fundamentally change the conduct of the elections and that some of the proposed amendments are so drastic that they go beyond creating an environment for a proper election.

“We have walked out of the meeting because the rules of the games are being changed midstream. They are creating a legal regime that will help them rig elections,” he said flanked by lawyers Paul Mwangi and Norman Magaya.

“If we have reached a point where laws can be changed through the backdoor, Nasa has no choice but to walk out and leave them to their desires because Jubilee is determined to return Kenya into a dictatorship,” said Mr Orengo.

Mr Magaya said the aim of the laws was a scheme by Jubilee to micro-manage the commission and create a lame duck chairman.

BOMBSHELL

“Let Jubilee know that they will not get away with this. A bombshell is awaiting them. October 26 is just another day on the Kenyan calendar. There will be no election,” said Mr Magaya.

However, Prof Kindiki dismissed the position adopted by Mr Orengo and his team, saying Nasa did not want the meeting because they are not ready for the election.

“Nasa is only interested in executing their agenda. They want to force through their agenda through force, intimidation and threats and that is unacceptable,” he said. In Parliament, MPs formed a committee to scrutinise the bill after which it will be tabled in the House.

Mr Chebukati sided with Nasa, saying the tabling of the bills had scuttled the meeting and supported calls to withdraw the proposals if their purpose is to change the conduct of the October 26 poll.

“We have looked at the Supreme Court judgment and we have identified areas that were the basis for nullification of the vote. It was about transmission and forms 34A, not laws. We don’t need any other law for now,” he said, pointing out that the law as it exists is sufficient for a free and credible election.

HARDLINE STANCES

Mr Chebukati urged parties to drop their hardline stances and expressed hope that both President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, and not their representatives, will attend the next meeting to unlock the impasse.

“We shall never tire in our effort to engage our stakeholders. Our doors remain open for engagement with every Kenyan with an issue. We will organise another meeting but we shall insist that the principals attend. We don’t want a situation where they send their representatives whose only motive is to engage the commission in sideshows,” he said.

At the Okoa Kenya offices, Mr Odinga said the collapse of the talks was a demonstration that President Kenyatta was determined to cling to power at whatever cost and drive the country to a chaotic state.

He cited the bills as the reason the Nasa team of negotiators abandoned the talks Thursday.

DEMONSTRATE

“Kenyans must tell Uhuru and Ruto that Kenya does not belong to them alone. The people of Kenya should not surrender their rights to a few individuals. The writing is on the wall that these people do not mean well,” he said and called on Kenyans to demonstrate against the government.

“We have no option but to urge all Kenyans to come out and demonstrate peacefully to liberate their country that is under Jubilee attack. This generation must not despair, they must arise and resist attempts to take their country to single party dictatorship under Jubilee,” he said.

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