The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party unveiled its list of five negotiators to hold talks with Kenya Kwanza on July 31, 2023, even as President William Ruto’s allies dared the Opposition to go back to the streets if they are not contented with the proposed agenda items.
The Azimio team will be led by Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka in the talks with President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza under the stewardship of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to address the stalemate occasioned by weeks of anti-government protests.
Other members of the team are National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, Democratic Action Party-Kenya leader Eugene Wamalwa, Nyamira senator Okong’o Omogeni and Malindi MP Amina Mnyazi.
“Our position remains that no party to these negotiations can claim a right to determine for the other what to raise and what not to raise. Azimio will respect Kenya Kwanza's right to bring all its issues to the table. We expect Kenya Kwanza to do the same with our issues,” the coalition said in a statement.
It added: “The issues, which the team has instructions to put on the table are; the high cost of living, audit of 2022 elections, bi-partisan reconstitution of IEBC [Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission], inclusivity in national affairs and respect for political parties in line with the Constitution.”
The coalition said it is keen on “a time-bound programme of talks that should take one month beginning August 1, 2023.”
But even as Azimio set the ball rolling by naming its team, Kenya Kwanza dismissed the Opposition’s five issues for discussion, insisting that they will only discuss the contents of a “joint statement” released by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa on Saturday, which Mr Odinga’s camp has termed as “the Kenya Kwanza wish-list.”
Mr Ichung’wa said they are not ready to compromise on the issues indicated in his Saturday statement, even daring the Opposition to resume its “riots” if they are not willing to accept the five agenda items.
The issues Kenya Kwanza wants to discuss are reconstitution of the IEBC, implementation of the two thirds gender rule, entrenchment of Constituency Development Fund (CDF), establishment and the entrenchment of the office of the leader of opposition and embedding of the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary as the “agreed issues in the presence of Mr Obasanjo” .
“We are very clear and have told them that if they don’t want to take the five issues, please, go back to the streets,” Mr Ichung’wa said.
The Kikuyu MP, who together with Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, among other members “reflecting regional and gender balance”, are expected to represent Kenya Kwanza in the talks, accused the Opposition of reneging on an agreement made in the presence of Mr Obasanjo that only the five issues he mentioned in his statement would be discussed.
“The joint statement followed a meeting between President Ruto and the facilitator (Mr Obasanjo). Let them get Obasanjo to confirm. I dare Mr Odinga to look at Kenyans straight in the eye and tell them the issues captured in the joint statement are not factual,” said Mr Ichung’wa.
Kenya Kwanza said President Ruto had ceded much ground to Azimio, by even agreeing to have Mr Obasanjo lead the talks.
“As early as the time for the three day riots that were called by Azimio, they had indicated that they wanted to speak to Obasanjo. They sent him to the President and that’s how the discussion began,” Mr Ichung’wa said, dismissing reports that the international community was the initiator of the talks.
“There has not been any push by the international committee,” he said, barely a day after Azimio accused the government side of failing to recognise the former Nigerian President’s efforts to broker the truce.
“We take note that Kenya Kwanza is trying to deny H.E. Obasanjo’s presence and leadership of the talks. That would be a very unfortunate development indeed. It points to Kenya Kwanza now institutionalising the culture of deceit and taking it to the global stage,” the Opposition said in a statement read by Party of National Unity (PNU) leader Peter Munya on Sunday.
They faulted Kenya Kwanza for denying presence of Tanzania President Samia Suluhu “and now they want to deny the presence of H.E Obasanjo.”
But even as the Opposition insisted that its five issues must be the basis for the talks, Mr Ichung’wa accused Azimio of hiding behind the high cost of living to mobilise Kenyans to take to the streets.
“The question of the cost of living was never the reason why Azimio was in the streets. That was a mobilisation tool because they knew it would rally Kenyans into the streets,” the legislator said. He pointed out that Kenyans made their decision at the ballot last year and “we shall not discuss anything to do with nusu mkate [coalition government].”
“When they talk of inclusivity, they clearly mean nusu mkate that’s why they want us to give them a blank check.”
“If they don’t want to take the five issues, let them go back to the streets,” Mr Ichung’wa said.
He said the Opposition should not be concerned by their failure to deal with the cost of living.
“If we fail to deal with the question of the cost of living, it’s not for Azimio to help us. It is the people of Kenya who will deal with us at the ballot. But we are confident we will address this mess left by Uhuru Kenyatta because this is the duty of the government.”
He said the Opposition’s role is to critique and offer alternatives but not to force a government to implement their manifesto.
Yesterday, it also emerged that a further showdown was looming among legislators and leaders allied to President Ruto and Mr Odinga over the talks.
This after both camps reportedly expressed their reservations with the ‘fixers’ tasked by Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga to actualise the elusive talks to resolve the political impasse.
Just days after President Ruto and Mr Odinga held a secret meeting in Mombasa, with all their confidants kept in the dark, their allies are viciously going after each other in their various WhatsApp groups.
Kenya Kwanza MPs are reported to be tearing into each other, questioning the loyalty of MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapseret) and Mr Ichung’wa as well as the involvement of Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen and a senior security official.
In the Opposition, things are not any better within the Azimio party ranks. The leaders are also demanding the exclusion of Suna East MP Junet Mohammed,Prof Makau Mutua and former Mombasa governor Hassan Joho in the discussions.
“We want leaders who can be trusted and are believed to have our interest at heart. They have played an initial role to initiate the dialogue but based on past happenings, we want new faces,” said an Azimio MP who is aware of the happenings.
He noted: “We have been in the trenches alone fighting for the rights of Kenyans while the mediators have been criss-crossing between the two leaders. How can we trust them? We are not in it for a handshake but we want our demands addressed. “
Jubilee Party Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni expressed his misgivings, saying, the talks will not address the issues of the high cost of living and punitive taxes.
“ My position remains clear, you can not negotiate when people are dead agitating for lowering of cost of living. We are not leaving anyone behind,” Mr Kionim said.
He added: “ How do you invite Mzee ( Mr Odinga) at 3am for a discussion. Is this in good faith?”
He faulted Dr Ruto’s night meeting with Mr Raila in Mombasa in the presence of Obasanjo.
“ Why should we have people in talks who will agree to things that don’t address the key issues? Why should we discuss two thirds gender rule and office of official opposition. Giving fertiliser will not solve the thorny issues, it’s about governance.”
He said Azimio should not accept to be part of the 10-member committee until their demands are met.
Within the Kenya Kwanza camp, Nation has learnt that the MPs have also expressed disapproval of the team, saying, they will not take hardline positions.
“We want the people endorsed by us. They will take the Kenya Kwanza position and not cede ground,” said an MP.
“In our WhatsApp groups we are not leaving anything to chance. We know our people are sympathetic to the Azimio side, this is our government and we don’t want outsiders. What is the essence of going through an election if the loser will easily give demands and join the government through the back door? This is not democracy,” another said.
[email protected], Additional reporting by Roselyne Obala.