Azimio Principals

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta. Details have emerged of how he sought to scuttle the bipartisan talks. Top (left to right): Azimio principals Martha Karua, Eugene Wamalwa, Kalonzo Musyoka and Raila Odinga.

| Nation Media Group

Division in Azimio as Uhuru, Martha, Wamalwa distance themselves from Raila, Ruto talks report

What you need to know:

  • Azimio’s Martha Karua and Eugene Wamalwa have distanced themselves from the report over the cost of living issue.
  • Details have emerged of how former President Uhuru Kenyatta sought to scuttle the bipartisan talks.

Fresh divisions have rocked the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition following the release of the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) report on Saturday, even as information emerged of how the coalition’s council chairman, former president Uhuru Kenyatta, made frantic attempts to “scuttle” the talks.

This came even as President William Ruto on Sunday promised to implement the recommendations by the committee.

“I want to congratulate all the teams that have come up with recommendations. I have seen the recommendations, they are good. All the recommendations are practical. We are going to work on them to reduce in areas they have recommended,” he said at Priesthood Fellowship in Kahawa West, Roysambu.

The President urged MPs to robustly discuss the report, as he suggested the recommendation on cuts in travel and per diem budgets was the committee’s biggest score.

“All those recommendations are okay. Where they said we lessen government spending by 50 per cent, I have done that already. Those calling for lessening to be done by 30 per cent in terms of travel, I suggest that they increase it to 50 per cent for Kenya to move forward. We must learn to live within our means,” he said.

Among the recommendations agreed upon by the team are the creation of the post of Official Opposition Leader with two deputies, and entrenching the Prime Cabinet Secretary’s office into law.

Other proposals by the team include evaluating the 2022 electoral process, expanding the IEBC selection panel, extending the period for presidential petitions from 14 to 21 days and cutting the government’s travel budget.

But even as the President endorsed the report, divisions emerged within Opposition ranks with Azimio deputy captain in the last election—Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua—and her DAP-Kenya counterpart Eugene Wamalwa taking a parallel position.

National Dialogue Committee co-chairpersons Kalonzo Musyoka and Kimani Ichung'wah

National Dialogue Committee co-chairpersons Kalonzo Musyoka and Kimani Ichung'wah flanked by committee members present their final report at the Hilton Garden Inn on  November 25, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

They insisted that they cannot be party to something that does not take into account the suffering of Kenyans.

“Any purported agreement that does not immediately impact on cost of living, electoral justice and respect for multiparty democracy is a fraud on the people and must be rejected,” Ms Karua charged on X, formerly Twitter.

Mr Wamalwa, who sat in the talks co-chaired by Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, also insisted that he will not be party to the report.

“I didn’t and will not append my signature to the NADCO report, and have not and will not accept any sitting allowance for the same because l believe we did not do justice to the single most important issue to Kenyans that is cost of living,” Mr Wamalwa said.

Speaking to the Nation on the phone from Busia County, Mr Wamalwa said he believes the committee had let Kenyans down.

“We have let Kenyans down. My conscience cannot allow me to append my signature to the report and I equally decline to receive my allowances because we have not met the expectations of Kenyans,” Mr Wamalwa said.

Yesterday, the Nation also established that former President Kenyatta’s shadow was looming large in the brazen position taken by the coalition’s leading lights, with highly placed sources in the coalition revealing disapproval of the talks by Mr Kenyatta over the cost-of-living matter.

“Uhuru made frantic efforts to scuttle the talks. Twice in about two months recently, Uhuru convened Azimio leaders to discuss the bilateral talks. Both meetings have been held at Raila’s home in Karen at Uhuru’s request,” a highly placed source told the Nation yesterday.

He revealed that a month ago, Mr Kenyatta convened the Azimio leadership to be briefed on the progress of talks.

“At the meeting, he expressed strong disapproval of the talks, preferring that Ruto be put under intense pressure. But it was not clear what he wanted the pressure to achieve,” the source added.

The Nation also established that the former president, who chairs the coalition’s top decision-making organ—the Azimio council—had last Friday convened another meeting and argued that Azimio should walk out of the talks over two issues—cost of living and reconstitution of IEBC.

Yesterday, a member of the Azimio team in the talks also disclosed how Mr Kenyatta’s strong stand on the matter left others with unanswered questions.

The source said that “there is a bit of disquiet in that the former president may be seeking to use Azimio in his shadow war with Ruto”.

Speaking in Rongo Town, Migori county during the launch of ODM party registration exercise yesterday, Mr Odinga noted that he had received the NADCO report but was however, yet to go through it.

“You are aware that we had put a group of people to dialogue on issues affecting the county. I know they are done but I have not read the report,” Mr Odinga said.

He said he could not comment on it before going through the document.

Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe yesterday pointed out that no matter the shortcomings of the report, the public should have the opportunity to decide on its implementation.

“It will be taken to the House, will be passed of course but we must insist that it goes to the people in the form of a referendum,” Mr Murathe said.

He noted that they were also concerned that the issue of respect for multipartyism has not been fully addressed.

Mr Murathe noted that matters already enacted into law, such as the Housing Levy and VAT on fuel are Executive decisions and the opposition cannot tell a government in power how to deal with its issues.

“Let them hang themselves. We should be actually supporting them to become more and more unpopular with the public.”

He pointed out that the report does not address all the key issues affecting Kenyans, but its alternative could only be “disruption and instability.”

In a late-night media briefing, the NADCO team said it had sent the report to President Ruto and Mr Odinga.

However, they indicated that there was no agreement on the scrapping of the Housing Levy, and reduction of VAT on petroleum products from 16 per cent to eight per cent.

Additional reporting by Mercy Simiyu and George Odiwuor