Ruto, Raila camps clash on key issues ahead of talks

Azimio ledaers

Azimio la Umoja leaders led by former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya addressing the media in Karen, Nairobi County on Sunday, July 30, 2023. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo I Nation Media Group

President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga’s camps have clashed over the terms of reference for the talks initiated by the international community, even as the Opposition accused the government of disowning former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo who is leading the negotiations.

On Sunday, President Ruto confirmed meeting Mr Odinga to address the crisis that is facing the country. He added that the talks will not include matters to do with the high cost of living.

As Head of State, Dr Ruto said, he was obligated to ensure that the safety of every Kenyan's property is guaranteed. 

"I have engaged with the Opposition and we have agreed that violence and destruction of property will not be in the equation of Kenya. Our politics will be devoid of violence," he said.

He added that Kenya was a democratic country and issues can be addressed through dialogue. The President, who was speaking during a thanksgiving prayer service in Ukunda, Kwale County, said he had noted that other leaders were mentioning the cost of living being among issues to be discussed in bi-partisan talks with the Opposition.

"I want to say that the cost of living and matters to do with the economy are already in our manifesto and cannot be handled the way they want," he said, adding that the government was already implementing programmes that will address the cost of living.

Mr Odinga’s team also confirmed that the Opposition chief met President Ruto under the stewardship of Mr Obasanjo, but were yet to agree on the way forward.

“We take this early opportunity to thank H.E. Obasanjo for offering himself as senior son of Africa and a global diplomat to oversee a peaceful resolution to the crisis here. 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,” Azimio leaders said in a statement read at Mr Odinga’s Karen home in Nairobi.

They faulted Kenya Kwanza for snubbing Tanzania President Samia Suluhu “and now they want to deny the presence of H.E Obasanjo.”

While disdaining National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wa’s Saturday statement outlining the issues to be discussed, Azimio said the initial meeting was only to prepare ground for further discussions terming it as “a talk about envisaged talks.”

Following a meeting at Mr Odinga Karen home yesterday, also attended by former President and Azimio Council chairman Uhuru Kenyatta, the leaders disowned Ichung'wa’s statement, terming it as Kenya Kwanza’s wish list.

On Saturday, a purported joint statement only signed by Mr Ichung'wa outlined five issues to be discussed by the 10-member committee to be unveiled by the two camps.

The issues were reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), implementation of the two-third gender rule, entrenchment of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), establishment and the entrenchment of office of the leader of opposition and that of the Prime Cabinet Secretary.

"Further, the parties agreed that the Finance Bill is sub judice and should be decided in court," read the statement.

On Sunday, Azimio, in a statement read by former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya at Mr Odinga’s Karen residence, said the coalition had nothing to do with Mr Ichung'wa's statement.

"We remain committed to dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the social, economic and political problems the country is currently witnessing and that threaten the lives of millions of our citizens," said Mr Munya who was flanked by other coalition principals save for Mr Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

The Party of National Unity leader said the negotiations must also include the issue of inclusivity, audit of 2022 elections and the bipartisan reconstitution of IEBC, accountability and responsibility for the brutality and abuse of human rights of protesters and non-interference in coalitions and their constituent parties.

Mr Munya said the government must also expedite actions that will lead to the immediate lowering of cost of living.

“It is our position that this issue does not require any discussion but policy and action by Kenya Kwanza. But since they won’t do it, lowering the cost of living has to be part of the talks.”

The Opposition insisted that no party should determine for the other what to issues raise and what not to raise, saying, it will respect Kenya Kwanza’s right to bring all its issues to the table.

The team also pointed out that with the plans to form a 10-member committee, the 14-member bi-partisan committee has since died a natural death.

Sources at the Opposition meeting at Mr Odinga’s residence revealed that Azimio’s top leadership had sanctioned a tentative list of negotiators to face President Ruto’s team under the leadership of Mr Obasanjo.

The Opposition team will be led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, Malindi MP Amina Mnyazi and Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni.

Kenya Kwanza is yet to prepare its team, but Nation has established that there are plans to have Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi lead the team that will also include Mr Ichung’wa.

The teams had agreed to have four members from outside parliament, two from each side, the leaders of majority and minority at the National Assembly and four additional MPs, two from each side.

“Even though the Kenya Kwanza is dragging its feet to form their team, they have no option as the international community is watching and has already threatened sanctions and bans on leaders opposed to the talks,” a source in the government told Nation yesterday. Western envoys had voiced their concerns over violent protests witnessed in the country and reached out to both camps to consider dialogue.

- Additional reporting by Siago Cece