Ruto-Raila talks: Kenya Kwanza, Azimio politicians blow hot and cold

Raila Odinga

President William Ruto (top left) and his Kenya Kwanza talks team and Azimio leader Raila Odinga (top right) and his team.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

Talks to end the post-election crisis seem to be standing on eggs after opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance leader Raila Odinga announced fresh plans for meet-the-people tours to counter attacks by President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua.

Dr Ruto and Mr Gachagua have told Mr Odinga to admit that he lost the August 9, 2022 presidential election and focus on 2027.

Mr Odinga recently belittled the Kenya Kwanza negotiators as a “third division team”.

The rival camps appear to be blowing hot and cold about the talks, with the technical teams still to agree on the agenda ahead of a meeting tomorrow.

Kenya Kwanza lead negotiator and National Assembly Majority Leader, Kimani Ichung’wah, maintains that the talks cannot be about elections “since the matter was settled at the ballot”.

However, the leaders appear to present a united front, like when MPs allied to Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga unanimously passed the motion establishing the National Dialogue Committee on Wednesday.

During the late-evening debate, the majority and minority sides agreed that the talks should provide a path for reforms to prevent standoffs over election results.

But when they retreat to their political bases, the camps polarise the country through derogatory remarks targeted at opponents.

“President Ruto gave the green light for persons aged 70 and above to be registered for monthly stipends. I have ordered the Principal Secretary to register Raila Odinga for the Sh2,000 so that he can rest,” Mr Gachagua said recently.

“He claims he can order the United States to recall (ambassador) Meg Whiteman but he cannot even dismiss an assistant chief.”

The Sunday Nation has learnt that the eight-member technical team has not harmonised the agenda for the talks. Members have not met since Monday.

The initial plan was for the technical team to frame the agenda ahead of tomorrow’s meeting by the 10-member National Dialogue Committee chaired by Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr Ichung’wah.

“There was need to sit and harmonise the agenda. Framing the agenda is still work in progress,” Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni said.

A technical team member from the Kenya Kwanza side confirmed the agenda has not been set.

Addressing Azimio la Umoja One Kenya delegates from Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi and Uasin Gishu counties after his speech at the Devolution Conference in Eldoret on Thursday, Mr Odinga said he would be going around the country for town hall meetings.

“Even as the Bomas talks are ongoing, the rest of us will be meeting supporters in their towns. We will not shy away from being open about our stolen victory,” he said.

“We want Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission servers to be opened. Up to this moment, the Forms 34C from the 290 constituencies have not been gazetted. They know who won the presidency. The cost of living needs also come down and Kenya Kwanza should stop buying our MPs in Parliament.”

Orange Democratic Movement Deputy Leader, Wycliffe Oparanya, said President Ruto and his allies have been going around the country attacking opposition figures.

He added that Azimio would have a meeting on Tuesday to plan and schedule the meet-the-people tours. Mr Odinga will not be at the meeting for he is out of the country.

“We have not settled on the dates for the tours because we wanted the talks to stabilise first. Our opponents are already out there. We cannot just sit and wait for the talks,” the former Kakamega governor said.

“We are in the talks in good faith and hope it will work.”

National Assembly Minority Leader, Opiyo Wandayi, was cautious with his choice of words even as he also insisted that the opposition would continue with town meetings.

“Our engagement with the people is continuous. What may change is the nature and form of those engagements,” the Ugunja MP said.

He dismissed concerns that the bipartisan talks could be scuttled by the current political war of words. Mr Wandayi described the passage of the motion on Wednesday as important.

“What was critical was the passage of the motion by the National Assembly. We expect the same in the Senate before substantive talks begin,” he said.

In the wake of the fresh confrontation following Ms Whitman’s endorsement of the 2022 presidential election, Mr Ichung’wah told Mr Odinga to stop wasting time over the polls.

“The ambassador stated the obvious when she said the elections was transparent and fair. Live with the truth of losing an election and focus on 2027,” the Kikuyu MP said.

“The election yielded a President, marking the end of that chapter. This cannot be the subject of dialogue. Likewise, violence and anarchy find no harbor in our democracy. We remain committed to upholding the rule of law and fostering a peaceful environment for all.”

Mr Kioni, who is also a member of a technical team in the National Dialogue Committee, said the US “is playing the good dog, the bad dog in Kenya’s political crisis”.

Former Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat, who supported Mr Odinga in the election last year before shifting allegiance to Dr Ruto, told the opposition leader to accept the results.

“We should not entertain people who want to be in power by force. Raila must accept that we can only have one president at a time,” Mr Salat said.

Vihiga Senator, Godfrey Osotsi, said the opposition would not hesitate to go back to the streets should the bipartisan talks collapse.

Some key political players in the ruling and opposition alliances appear to be pulling behind-the-scenes strings to frustrate the talks over fears that they could become victims in the event of a rapprochement between the country’s top two political leaders.

Politicians in Kenya Kwanza also believe the demands by Mr Odinga are a ploy to join the government “through the backdoor”.

Mr Gachagua and some of his allies, especially from Mt Kenya, have taken hardline positions against the talks for fear of losing their clout and influence in the current administration should Mr Odinga find a working relationship with President Ruto.

Still with a second and final term to fight for in 2027, President Ruto is not ready or willing to trigger discontent in Mt Kenya.

Additional reporting by Fred Kibor