Azimio want talks to start Monday, stick to 30-day deadline


Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka (centre) addresses journalists at the SKM Centre in Karen. Mr Kalonzo, Azimio's lead negotiator, wrote to Kimani Ichung’wah of Kenya Kwanza saying time is of the essence ahead of the planned talks.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Azimio lead negotiator Kalonzo wrote to Kimani Ichung’wah of Kenya Kwanza saying time is of the essence ahead of the planned talks.
  • The discussions are meant to unlock an impasse arising from protests over the high cost of living and disputed polls.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Opposition chief Raila Odinga's lead negotiator in crisis talks with President William Ruto's side, has demanded that the proposed dialogue, to be chaired by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, begin on Monday and stick to the 30-day deadline they have proposed.

Mr Musyoka, in a letter to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance team leader and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, said time was of the essence and the talks should not delay any longer.

The first meeting, he says in the letter, should be held on Monday at the Serena Hotel—famous for hosting crisis talks that hammered out a truce following the 2007/2008 post-election violence that led to the deaths of 1,000 Kenyans and displacement of over 600,000 others.

“In light of the urgency of the issues, the anxiety of our people and in the interest of a speedy resolution to the issues afflicting our nation, we today extend an invitation to the Kenya Kwanza National Dialogue Team, the Leader of the Majority Party in the National Assembly, and the designated leader of the Kenya Kwanza delegation for the initial joint meeting of both parties at the Serena Hotel, Nairobi, on Monday, August 7, 2023, at 11am,” Mr Musyoka wrote.

He added: “We have taken this step because we believe time is of the essence. While a lot of hard work will be needed to resolve the issues at hand, we believe a speedy start and a time-bound programme is necessary to put the nation at ease.”

He said the issues should be addressed by August 31, 2023.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party also insisted that, while it respected Kenya Kwanza’s right to table its listed five issues, Azimio still had every right to table their own issues—and the two sides’ issues should be given the same weight.

“We further reiterate that the issues for discussion from our side remains the cost of living, audit of the 2022 presidential election results, restructuring and reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission [IEBC] and related matters, measures to prevent interference with political parties and outstanding constitutional matters (governance issues, adequate checks and balances and the question of boundaries delimitation)."

“As a party, we commit to respect the issues listed by Kenya Kwanza for the talks.”

President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance insists on an agenda comprising reconstitution of IEBC, implementation of the two-third gender rule, entrenchment of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), establishment and the entrenchment of Office of the Leader of Opposition and embedment of the Office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary.

The statement came as allies of Mr Odinga stepped up a push to have Mr Musyoka and ex-minister Eugene Wamalwa replaced in the planned talks with a team from President Ruto’s side, saying, the duo were “too senior” to engage in talks with a team they see as not matching their status.

In light of these and other emerging issues, Mr Odinga on Thursday August 3 reportedly chaired a meeting of the coalition’s principals to brainstorm on the issues ahead of the talks.

The discussions are meant to unlock an impasse arising from protests over the high cost of living and the disputed 2022 presidential polls.

The Kenya Kwanza team will be led by Mr Ichung’wah and includes; Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot, Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire, Bungoma Woman Rep Catherine Wambilianga and East Africa Legislative Assembly member Hassan Omar.

Mr Odinga’s coalition named Mr Musyoka, Mr Wamalwa, National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni and Malindi MP Amina Mnyazi as members.

On Thursday, August 3, Nation established that there was unease in Mr Odinga’s camp over Kenya Kwanza team in the talks, with some leaders pushing for the withdrawal of Mr Musyoka and Mr Wamalwa, on grounds they “are too senior to negotiate with the government team as presently constituted.”

“I’d advise that he withdraws from that team because Kenya Kwanza seems to have reduced it to the level of parliament once again,” Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo said .

But Makueni Governor Mutula Kilonzo Jnr told Nation that Mr Musyoka and Mr Wamalwa are senior lawyers and have experience in government operations.

“Kalonzo is an arbitrator per excellence. His role in any mediation should be looked at from the perspective of a guru in political negotiations. These matters appear mundane but they are not. Anyone sitting to negotiate must see Kenya as a whole and not follow partisan interests,” added Mr Kilonzo Jr.

The issue is said to have attracted the attention of the coalition’s top leadership, which held a meeting to further discuss their list. There were reports that the coalition was contemplating withdrawing Mr Musyoka and Mr Wamalwa from the 10-member dialogue team over perceived contempt by President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza.

“There were discussions on Wednesday evening on whether to have Kalonzo and Wamalwa leave the team and be replaced but some of us feel that would paint us in negative light being that these talks have been initiated by the international community,” a top coalition figure told Nation Thursday.

He revealed that the names of Jubilee Party Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni, his Orange Democratic Movement counterpart Edwin Sifuna and former Agriculture Minister Kipruto Arap Kirwa were floated as possible replacements.

However, another top official said the matter had been settled and “we have decided to retain the two in the talks as a commitment to address the grievances facing the country.”

Mr Wandayi said their team remains intact. Machakos Deputy Governor Francis Mwangangi, while hosting President Ruto Thursday, August 3,, underscored the need for dialogue for the sake of peace and development.

“Your excellency, let’s have different alternative national ways of discussing and resolving our issues internally.”

“The Sh700 million [Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba] Murkomen is going to use to repair the Nairobi expressway could put up a level five hospital here,” Mr Mwangangi said.

Earlier, he had also expressed reservations with the Kenya Kwanza team in the talks.

Mr Mwangangi cautioned against hardline positions ahead of the talks, saying, leaders should put the country first.

“Azimio has pronounced itself that they are not interested in anything to do with nusu mkate or handshake hence the fears by Kenya Kwanza that by Opposition including inclusivity in its list of issue, it’s seeking to get into the government is not correct,” the deputy governor said.

He added: “Let us not divert attention on nepotism and tribalism in the public service, particularly in the national government, which Azimio is concerned about.”

On the lowering of the cost of living, he said it should be a “point of convergence,” and no party should shy away from discussing it. “Kenya Kwanza can easily implement their manifesto in a peaceful environment as opposed to that full of tension, so it’s to their advantage when there are no protests.”