Bipartisan talks suspended indefinitely, co-chair Otiende Amollo announces

Bipartisan talks

Rarienda MP Otiende Omollo (centre) and Azimio bipartisan team chair briefs media at Bomas of Kenya on May 23, 2023 after the Azimio team suspended talks for the next seven days between them and the Kenya kwanza Team. 

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu I Nation Media Group

The bipartisan team spearheading talks between Azimio la Umoja and Kenya Kwanza has been suspended indefinitely after the government failed to meet the demands issued by the opposition on Tuesday.

The co-chair of the Azimio Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) said the Kenya Kwanza co-chair George Murugara has failed to sign two letters addressed to the selection panel and another to the Chief Executive  Officer of electoral commission on the preservation of the presidential election servers.

“In the circumstances, it is our considered opinion that appropriate action is to adjourn the talks sine die (Latin word for indefinitely) in accordance with Clause 36 of the framework agreement," reads the letter by Dr Amollo.

According to Clause 37 of the framework agreement guiding the bipartisan team, in case of a dispute, the committee will adjourn for seven days as the team strives to build consensus.

“If the parties cannot agree within seven days of suspension of the talks, either party may give notification of the dissolution of the talks,” reads clause 38 of the framework agreement.

The Azimio team on Wednesday shared the two letters-one addressed to the chairperson of the selection panel Nelson Makanda and another to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission CEO Marjan Hussein.

In the letter to the selection panel which is only signed by Dr Amollo, the team called on the team to suspend the recruitment process until the talks are concluded.

“There are concerns that the ongoing recruitment of the chairperson and the commissioners of IEBC might prejudice the joint talks. Consequently, the committee has resolved that there is a need to suspend the recruitment process during the pendency of the talks,” reads the letter.

In another letter addressed to Mr Marjan which again has only been signed by Dr Amollo, the team wants IEBC to preserve the 2022 presidential election servers to facilitate inspection.

“Preserving the 2022 election presidential servers and the data contained herein is prerequisite in the effective discharge of the commitees’ mandate. Moreover, the 2022 presidential election servers and the data contained therein are election material and in accordance with the Elections 9General) regulations 2012 require to inspect the documents,” reads the letter.

Mr Murugara however told the Nation that he is yet to receive the letter on suspension of the talks indefinitely.

On failure to sign the two letters, Mr Murugara said his draft of the letters was changed hence he could not sign them.

“I can’t sign them, my draft was changed. It looks like we are issuing directives,” Mr Murugara told the Nation.

Azimio had requested on interim basis lowering the cost of living by interim reduction of cost of essential items, preservation of IEBC presidential election servers, cessation of invasion of coalition parties specifically Jubilee Party and the suspension of the IEBC selection process.

During its Parliamentary Group meeting on Tuesday, Azimio threatened to call off the talks if Kenya Kwanza failed to address the issues. On top of the interim measures, the coalition also demanded the immediate withdrawal of the controversial Finance Bill, 2023 which they term as anti-people.

During the meeting that was chaired by Mr Odinga, Azimio revealed that Kenya Kwanza had offered that the joint co-chairs write to the selection panel requesting them to halt the process for about 21-30 days and preserve the presidential server.

The Azimio teams suspended the talks on Tuesday citing irreconcilable differences on fundamental matters of interim issues.

In the letter to Dr Amollo last week, Mr Murugara said the bipartisan committee has no powers to suspend the recruitment of the IEBC commissioners but says as the co-chairs they can write to the selection panel to consider suspending the process for 30 days as the talks go on.

On the preservation of servers, Mr Murugara says the committee did not agree on such interim measures because IEBC is not properly constituted at the moment.

“Our argument was that such a directive would be an exercise in futility as there are no IEBC commissioners to receive such a directive,” Mr Murugara said.