Bipartisan talks team agrees on how to tackle IEBC issues 

Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja bipartisan talks teams

Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja bipartisan talks teams led by Rarieda Member of Parliament Otiende Amollo and Tharaka MP George Murugara during a media briefing on the proceedings of the talks at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Upperhill, Nairobi on May 5, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

The bipartisan talks team formed by Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya yesterday formed a six-member sub-committee to thrash out contentious issues on the electoral commission.

In another big step, the team agreed to have the discussion take a hybrid approach, with representation from outside Parliament. Representatives of members of the county assemblies, Law Society of Kenya and religious leaders will be involved in the talks that will, however, be led by Parliament, which the 14-member team wants to provide secretariat services.

The team co-chaired by George Murugara (Tharaka, UDA) and Otiende Amollo (Rarieda, ODM) yesterday agreed to first tackle the issues on the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). 

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna will lead the Azimio team which also has Millie Odhiambo (Suba North) and Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua. Bomet Senator Hillary Sigei will lead the Kenya Kwanza side which has Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and Kibwezi West MP Mwengi Mutuse.

“The IEBC question is a common issue as you would have noticed from the two teams, we have agreed that it is one of the utmost importance and needs to be prioritised,” Mr Amollo said.

“We expect that by the time we come back, they (six-member sub-committee) will have concretised thoughts around that and anyone with any idea is welcomed to share with us through our joint secretariat so that we factor them in our discussion.”

Significant progress

Mr Murugara explained that the hybrid route was agreed upon by the team after deliberations over the three options on the table.

“This means that the talks will be both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary,” Mr Murugara said. “We will have recognition of Parliament as existing and adopting its work as part and parcel of Parliament while extra-parliamentary means that we will have people who are not parliamentarians coming into the talks and discussing with us the issues in contention.” 

Addressing journalists at Bomas of Kenya, the committee exuded confidence that they are making significant progress.

“As you can see, we seem to be agreeing on one issue after the other. We seem to be headed in the right direction. Even where there seems to be a disagreement, we sit down and talk without coercion,” Mr Murugara said.

“As a team, we are happy with the progress of the talks,” added Mr Amollo.

The team has written to the speakers of the National Assembly and Senate seeking their support in the facilitation of the committee works. In the letter dated May 17 and signed by the two co-chairs, the committee has sought recognition from both Houses.

It also wants the two speakers to commit to supporting them through the secondment or recruitment of technical staff and provision of Hansard facilities when required. 

“In accordance with Article 103 (1) of the constitution, Standing Order 258 of the National Assembly and 148 of the Senate, we request the speakers to grant permission of absence for the members of the committee during the pendency of the bipartisan talks,” reads the letter.

The deal comes hours after Mr Odinga expressed optimism that the team will make headway and give the country a way forward.

“We have received progress reports from our team that the talks are progressing well. Remember there are issues we said must be concluded within 30 days,” Azimio leader Odinga said on Tuesday.