Raila Odinga, Martha Karua differ over return of maandamano

 Raila Odinga with Martha Karua

Azimio la Umoja One Kenyaleader Raila Odinga with his 2022 running mate Martha Karua during their final rally at Kasarani stadium on August 6. The two leaders have differed over return of Azimio demos.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Ms Karua said three main issues—the cost of living, electoral justice and respect for political rights—are non-negotiable.
  • Mr Odinga says the decision to return to the streets has not yet reached that point because the dialogue teams have not "failed to agree".

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga has differed with his 2022 elections running mate Martha Karua on the next course of action as talks with the government appear to be on the verge of collapse.

While Ms Karua said the Azimio had every right to go back to the streets—the very reason that had led to the formation of the dialogue team—Mr Odinga said the matter had not reached such a point yet as the teams had not “failed to agree” .

Ms Karua said three main issues—the cost of living, electoral justice and respect for political rights—are non-negotiable and the Kenya Kwanza team cannot cherry-pick what to include in the final report.

“Sovereignty belongs to the people of Kenya... hata kama tutasafirishwa mbinguni (even if we will be sent to heaven). As Narc Kenya and the people of Azimio, we are saying should the talks fail, the way they are looking they are failing, we shall not forgo our rights, we shall go back to the streets if necessary and we are going to exercise our civil and political human rights. We are saying no to intimidation and we call upon Kenyans to join and hold hands so that we restore sanity in our country,” Ms Karua said.

She was speaking at the Narc Kenya offices in Nairobi at the same time Mr Odinga was addressing journalists at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation.

While Mr Odinga’s presser was primarily on President William Ruto’s fuel deal with two Gulf countries, he waded into the National Dialogue Committee issues when asked by the media. He said that it is too early to issue threats over the talks.

“They have not finished the talks, we do not want to issue our conditions now. When they will fail to agree, we will issue directions. We do not want to issue threats now so that it seems like we do not want them to agree. We are giving them the time to complete the talks,” he said.

Among the issues that Ms Karua said must be addressed is cutting VAT on fuel by 8 per cent, saying the doubling to 16 per cent had pushed up the cost of living.

“The cost of living is not only about unga. It is also all about the cost of primary and secondary education in the country. We want them run efficiently and not undermined. They are being undermined and a lot of children are out of school. We want university education to be restored to where it was. Loans must be given to all the students and not selectively as the government is doing,” she said.

Ms Karua also faulted the government for clawing back gains from the constitution and violating the rule of law through withdrawal of ongoing cases and abduction of business people.

This comes amid revelations that the talks teams have failed to agree on the strategies of bringing the cost of living down. While the Azimio team is keen on reduction of VAT on petroleum products to 8 per cent, the Kenya Kwanza side says the issue of fuel price is beyond the government.

Mr Odinga’s team is also keen on expansion of social welfare programmes such as cash transfers for the vulnerable, but Kenya Kwanza has rejected this citing lack of cash.

The opposition also wants the controversial 3 per cent housing levy scrapped and made voluntary for salaried Kenyans, reinstatement of the 16 per cent VAT on transfer of business, helicopters, helicopter spare parts and other accessories.

Mr Odinga yesterday said the Azimio team will reject the final report should both parties fail to reach consensus on the issues.