Raila to make ‘major announcement’ on bipartisan talks

Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga in Migori on September 8, 2023.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor

What you need to know:

  • Azimio la Umoja team says their Kenya Kwanza counterparts are dragging the talks.
  • The dialogue committee has not held discussions on any of the substantive agenda items.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga is set to make a major announcement on the ongoing bipartisan talks, amid growing claims that President William Ruto’s camp is frustrating the negotiations.

Mr Odinga yesterday chaired a crisis meeting that lasted more than four hours to deliberate on the coalition’s engagement with the ruling alliance. Sources in the meeting told the Nation that Mr Odinga is likely to make fresh demands to President Ruto tomorrow.

The meeting was attended by top coalition officials including Narck Kenya’s Martha Karua, former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya among others. The five-member negotiations team led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and the four members of the technical team led by Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni were also in attendance. 

The talks team briefed the coalition’s leadership on the progress and alleged that the ruling alliance’s team appears to be taking instruction from external forces. This, they said, made it impossible for them to take any decision without asking for time to consult, therefore delaying progress.

In the meeting, the Azimio leaders alleged a deliberate scheme by the Kenya Kwanza Alliance to frustrate the talks by delaying any substantive discussions on the substantive agenda items.

The talks team had planned to conclude the negotiations within 60 days. Two weeks have since elapsed without substantive discussions on any of the agenda items.

It emerged during the closed door session that some of the planned meetings by the technical team had to be cancelled after the Kenya Kwanza team said they were “engaged elsewhere”. For example, a meeting of the eight-member technical team that was to take place last Friday to prepare the agenda for the Monday meeting by the dialogue committee did not take place.

The opposition leaders listed pulling out of the talks as one of the options should there be no commitment by President Ruto’s side to fast-track the negotiations.

“There is a feeling that it (talks) is too slow. The other side keeps on making excuses and not turning up for crucial meetings. We are going to make an announcement on Thursday. We have made it clear that pulling out is an option,” said a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Further, the meeting discussed the utterances by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who has consistently dismissed the talks.

“These people keep on making pronouncements attacking the talks. The President has not reprimanded his members who are making some of these statements,” added the official. Another official said the country should expect “political fireworks beginning Friday.”

The coalition has also planned for another meeting on Friday. It was, however, not immediately clear what the agenda would be.

While speaking over the weekend, Mr Gachagua said the 2022 presidential election results should not be a subject of negotiations by the team.

“Discussing the 2022 presidential election should be dropped. Let them proceed with the other agenda items. Let them talk about reconstituting IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission), embedding the Office of Prime Cabinet Secretary and others,” he said.

On Monday when the negotiation team met, discussion on the substantive agenda did not happen. Instead, the team co-chaired by Mr Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah said the technical team would need another week to go through memoranda from the public.

“We will resume the talks next week on Monday and are giving the technical committee time to go through the memorandums and harmonise them before we meet for next week’s session,” said Mr Kalonzo said on Monday. “When we meet on Monday, it will be a serious engagement. We are aware of the time limit.”