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Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s allies on Friday (September 29) suggested a sinister plot to scuttle the ongoing Bomas talks with a team representing President William Ruto, as the 10-member bipartisan team faced its first hurdle after petitioners challenged its constitutionality in court.
This is even as Mr Odinga said the team was preparing a memorandum to present before the team for the funds allocated to counties to hit 35 per cent of audited national revenue, up from the current 15 per cent.
The team, co-chaired by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, has been approved by Parliament and has a wide range of issues to discuss, including the reconstitution of the electoral commission, an audit of the 2022 General Election, the high cost of living, and boundary review, whose constitutional deadline expires in March 2024.
Reacting to a petition challenging the constitutionality of the team, former Defence Minister Eugene Wamalwa, who sits in the team, said the challenge was nothing new as they had encountered obstacles before.
“These are just attempts to scuttle the talks, there are people who, from the beginning, were opposed to these talks. But we want to assure Kenyans that we will not be derailed and we remain focussed to deliver on our mandate,” Mr Wamalwa said.
Mr Wamalwa noted that they are halfway towards achieving their objective and will not be deterred.
“We were given 60 days and we have already done 30; so we are halfway towards our goal. We will complete the public hearings next week then proceed to write our report to be presented to Parliament,” Mr Wamalwa said.
Speaking in Mombasa, Mr Odinga backed the talks, saying they should be people-centred, and that there must be a show of commitment by all parties.
“Even as talks go on, we shall continue to pursue justice for the victims of police brutality during our peaceful demonstrations. We encourage good inter-governmental relations between the national and county governments in the spirit of Article 6 of the Constitution that demands both levels of government to conduct their mutual relations based on consultations and cooperation,” Mr Odinga said.
Mr Wamalwa said Azimio remains committed to the talks and they have also asked the Kenya Kwanza team to commit to the dialogue process.
“We know people like the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua have been sceptical about the talks but as Azimio, we have told even our governors in Mombasa that the coalition remains committed to the talks,” Mr Wamalwa said.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chairman John Mbadi reads a sinister motive on the move, saying there must be a force behind the three people who are determined to end the talks.
“Whenever you see such games being played, there must be some force behind it. What is unconstitutional in Kenyans sitting together to talk? There is nothing illegal that they have done. There are no legal provisions that have been proposed and implemented by the committee,” Mr Mbadi said.
The nominated MP said it is premature to declare the ongoing talks illegal since all the proposals made before it will still be subjected to the legal processes before implementation.
Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi blamed powerful individuals in government who are using proxies to ensure the talks don’t succeed.
“It is very unfortunate that some powerful people in government are using proxies to scuttle the talks. This is a committee that was set up by Parliament through a motion passed by both Houses. How does it become illegal?” he asked.
Three Kenyans want the court to stop the national dialogue committee’s activities, arguing that the talks are a waste of public resources. Mr Issa Elanyi, Mr Patrick Karani and Mr Paul Kirui submitted that the committee was formed without a legal framework to guide the collection of views from members of the public, in an inclusive and participatory process.
The petition has further faulted the committee’s bid to audit last year’s presidential election, arguing that the Constitution provides a mechanism for the audit of the elections through a petition to the Supreme Court.
“The National Dialogue Committee is promising another audit outside the framework of the Constitution and statute. This is deeply problematic; it is a constitutional coup. Reform the constitutional process of election and dispute resolution should be preceded by a thorough consultative process,” the petitioners say through their lawyer Peter Wanyama.
“The political elite seems to be using the committee for political self-dealing. It is imperative that the court stops the committee and guide the way forward — in terms of the mechanics,” the petitioners stated through lawyer Peter Wanyama.
The petition was filed a day after four former commissioners of the electoral body testified before the committee and maintained their stance in disowning last year’s presidential election. Ms Juliana Cherera, Mr Justus Nyang’aya, Mr Francis Wanderi and Ms Irene Masit maintained that they had no faith in the process that declared Dr Ruto as the President.
However, former IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu declined to appear before the committee.
In the petition against the committee, the petitioners argue that the formation of the committee by Parliament without a legal framework to guide the process on the collection of views, remuneration and general guidelines on how to conduct civic education, and formulation of issues, as well as debate on the issues by the members of the public, was in violation of Article 10 of the Constitution on public participation.
“The petitioners are also appreciably apprehensive that if the National Dialogue Committee is not restrained, it will waste public resources in a process that is void and unconstitutional,” the petitioners said.
Reporting by Sam Kiplagat, Samwel Owino and Wachira Mwangi