William Ruto

Opposition leader Raila Odinga (left) and President William Ruto.

| Nation Media Group

Ruto, Raila strike common ground as talks team agrees on agenda

President William Ruto appears to have backed down from his initial rejection of opposition leader Raila Oding’s demand inclusion of an audit of the 2022 presidential election and the cost of living in the agenda of the bipartisan talks.

The National Dialogue Committee yesterday agreed to discuss all agenda items proposed by both the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya, a major breakthrough in planned negotiations.

But in a telling rider, the team indicated that its final report to Parliament will include “a list of agreed and unagreed issues”. Furthermore, in the event of “irreconcilable differences” on some of the issues during the deliberations, President Ruto and Mr Odinga would be required to offer “direction and resolution”.

The team has given itself 60 days to conclude the talks, but has indicated that if there are outstanding issues, it will seek parliamentary approval for an extension.

President Ruto and his allies had vehemently rejected any discussion of the disputed presidential election results, saying the matter had already been settled by the Supreme Court.

He had also rejected talks on the cost of living, arguing that the Finance Act, 2023, which contains the new tax measures, was in court. He is reported to have taken the stand during his face-to-face meeting with Mr Odinga and former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo, who brokered the truce.

The framework agreement signed by the team’s co-chairs —Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka (Azimio) and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah (Kenya Kwanza)— listed the issues for discussion under five broad categories.

Kalonzo Musyoka

Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (left) and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah during the signing of the bipartisan talks framework agreement on August 29,2023.

Photo credit: Wildred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

The 10-member team will discuss Article 43 of the Constitution (economic and social rights), the cost of living, implementation of the two-thirds rule and governance, including the promotion of national unity and inclusiveness in public appointments.

On electoral justice, the camps will seek consensus on the restructuring and reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, delimitation of boundaries and audit of the 2022 presidential election.

Further, the team will seek to entrench the National Government Constituencies Development Fund, National Government Affirmative Action Fund and Senate Oversight Fund in the Constitution. It will also discuss the creation of the office of the Leader of the Official Opposition and entrench the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary in the constitution.

President Ruto has previously indicated his support for the creation of the position of the Leader of the official opposition.

The negotiating team will also hold talks on political party/coalition loyalty after the opposition claimed the ruling alliance was behind the attempted takeover of the Jubilee Party. The opposition is also seeking to force some of its rebel members to seek a new mandate after switching allegiance to Kenya Kwanza.

 Amina Mnyazi,

From left: Malindi MP Amina Mnyazi, National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi and DAP leader Eugene Wamalwa during the resumption of bi-partisan talks between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance at the Bomas of Kenya Nairobi on August 9, 2023. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

According to the document signed by both sides, the committee is expected to identify urgent issues to be resolved within 30 days. A member of the team, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the technical team had been tasked with identifying issues for prioritisation.

“The Final Report and Proposals of the Committee shall be submitted to the respective Coalition Leaders. In addition, the Final Report and Proposals of the Committee shall be presented to the Leader of the Majority Party and the Leader of the Minority Party of each House of Parliament,” the framework agreement reads.

It goes on to say that any solutions agreed by consensus, which require changes in public policy, will be recommended and “implemented by the State, as appropriate, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws and regulations”.

Catherine Wambilianga,

From right: Bungoma County Woman Representative Catherine Wambilianga, EALA MP Hassan Omar and Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot during the resumption of bipartisan talks between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance at the Bomas of Kenya Nairobi on 9 August 2023. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

The team also agreed that the two sides may amend the framework agreement at any time, provided that any such amendment is in writing and signed by members of the committee.

During the meeting in the Bomas of Kenya, Mr Musyoka dismissed leaders opposed to the ongoing dialogue.

“There is a lot of work to be done and we urge Kenyans to ignore the naysayers who feel threatened,” he said.

The committee is expected to start receiving memoranda from the public starting next week.