Moment of truth for Raila Odinga in political war with William Ruto

Raila Odinga in Kisumu

Azimio leader Raila Odinga addresses journalists at Mama Grace Onyango Social Hall in Kisumu on Thursday May 25.  The opposition chief has started a five-day countdown to deadline issued to President William Ruto on bipartisan talks.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

Opposition leader Raila Odinga today begins a five-day countdown to a deadline issued to President William Ruto on the continuation of bi-partisan talks.

Mr Odinga will today join other Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party honchos at Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s Yatta home in a meeting where key issues will be discussed following this week’s decision by the outfit’s team in talks to resolve the August 2022 post-election stalemate to suspend the discussions over what they said was insincerity on the side of President Ruto.

The meeting — expected to come up with a ‘Yatta Declaration’— will precede a planned Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting on Tuesday.

The National Assembly is expected to resume sittings on Tuesday, with the budget, which will be read by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u on June 15, expected to top the agenda. Mr Odinga has urged Azimio MPs to reject President Ruto’s tax proposals, saying, they were punitive and could result in double-taxation.

At the same time, Tuesday would coincide with the end of a seven-day ultimatum the Azimio team had issued for President Ruto’s side to come up with proposals on how to continue the bi-partisan talks, top among them being the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and audit of the 2022 poll servers.

Mr Odinga has listed the IEBC reconstitution, audit of the servers, immediate steps to lower the cost of living, and an end to what they said was Kenya Kwanza’s bid to “incapacitate, kill or take over other parties” as its four “irreducible minimums” before the talks can resume.

On Tuesday, the Azimio team chaired by Dr Otiende Amollo (Rarieda, ODM) will give an update on whether or not their Kenya Kwanza colleagues chaired by George Murugara (Tharaka, UDA) will have made the commitments.

“Kenya Kwanza wants to continue with measures that make the cost of living even more expensive, they want to interfere with the IEBC servers, proceed with the picking of new IEBC commissioners and continue invading Azimio parties while we sit in boardrooms talking about the same issues,” Azimio said in a statement on Wednesday.

But what could upend the scales in the Ruto-Raila battle is the discussion of self-determination, which has been read to mean secession talks akin to Mr Odinga’s demands in 2017. At the time, the Opposition went as far as drawing different maps of Kenya and how the “ sharing” of the country will be done.

On Wednesday, Mr Odinga’s Lawyer Paul Mwangi told Nation clarifications on Mr Odinga’s statement on self-determination “would probably be given” during the Azimio PG meeting.

“At the moment just leave it at that. Probably during the PG on Tuesday, the matter will be discussed and you will be updated,” Mr Mwangi said at the SKM Command Centre in Karen, Nairobi.

Mr Odinga has said Kenyans have a right to petition the United Nations for self-determination if they feel disenfranchised by the government.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Chief Whip Boni Khalwale accused Mr Odinga of fuelling discord in the country without providing the necessary numbers to back his allegations of tribal appointments in the civil service.

“Raila is struggling to remain relevant in the fast-changing terrain of national politics. His claim cannot be backed by statistics because even members of his community continue to be appointed to state jobs,” Dr Khalwale said.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech and his Nyaribari Chache counterpart Zaheer Jhanda said Kenya is governed by the rule of law and Mr Odinga should stick to the constitution when addressing his concerns.

“I challenge Raila to name the clause in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 where the right to secession is recognised or protected. The President has indulged Raila Odinga by agreeing to the bi-partisan talks which Azimio is not committed to. Nobody can hold Kenyans or their democratically elected government at ransom, even Raila Odinga,” charged Mr Koech.

“The Constitution must be respected by all. How many civil servants have Kenya Kwanza appointed since taking office? Ethnic profiling of Kenyans who get appointed to offices in social media is not a measure of the ethnic configuration of our civil service. Any Azimio MP can ask for exact numbers and percentages from the CS of Public Service to avoid guesswork,” Mr Koech said.

Mr Jhanda termed as “daydreaming” Mr Odinga’s fresh secession threats.

 “Hiyo ni ndoto ya mchana (That’s day dreaming). Kenya is governed by the rule of law and the constitution. We dare him (Mr Odinga) that before he thinks of secession, let him try to swear himself in, then he will understand we have a President who is the Commander in Chief of the Defense Forces,” Mr Jhanda warned.

The secession calls had first been made by former Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria at an opposition rally in Kamukunji grounds, where he warned that failure by the government to guarantee an audit of last year’s presidential election servers, Azimio coalition would seek the right to self-determination.

“We shall now resort to governing ourselves because 70 per cent of Kenyans are non-shareholders. We shall form our own government, make our own IDs (Identity Cards) and collect our revenues. Let them prepare for that, should they fail to open the servers,” Mr Wa Iria said at the rally, attracting a standing ovation from Azimio honchos including Mr Odinga, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka among other leaders at the event.

He went on: “Whether you like it Baba, you will run your government should they fail to open the servers. So that joke (by Mr Gachagua on shares) will lead to the formation of a new Kenya so that we leave them with Kenya Limited and form the Republic of Kenya.”