Ruto-Raila talks team facing major hurdles amid push-and-pull

Kalonzo Musyoka

National Dialogue Committee co-chairpersons Kalonzo Musyoka (left) representing the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party and Kimani Ichung’wah  for the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance during the resumption of the bipartisan talks at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi in early August. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The National Dialogue Committee is facing a major hurdle in dealing with contentious issues revolving around the high cost of living and reconstitution of the electoral commission, amid a push-and-pull that could derail the process.

The 10-member team said yesterday it will begin meeting with invited stakeholders this Friday as the talks enter a crucial week in a race to beat the 60-day deadline. This comes after the talks resumed after a week-long break to allow members to attend the Africa Climate Summit.

However, the talks resumed against the backdrop of a sustained attack on the process by a section of Kenyan Kwanza leaders, led by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, who have described them as a waste of time.

This comes amid concerns over lack of funding for the committee’s activities.

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 National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah, who appeared at the negotiations venue at the Bomas of Kenya after weeks of absence, said there were still some points of divergence between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party on the agenda for the dialogue aimed at finding a political truce after the hotly contested 2022 elections.

Mr Ichung’wa said the two technical teams from both sides of the political divide had been tasked with going through the agenda items in addition to sifting through the 142 memoranda received from stakeholders.

“We have studied the report of the technical committee and we are satisfied with it. We have many issues on which we agree and a few on which we disagree," said Mr Ichung'wah.

Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who heads the Azimio delegation, said there was convergence on the need to reconstitute the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) but there was no agreement on how to go about it. He said the same dilemma was facing the issue of the rising cost of living.

Although the two camps agreed on the need to make the IEBC functional in accordance with the Constitution, including filling vacancies in the offices of the chairperson and commissioners, Kenya Kwanza wants the process to end there.

However, Azimio wants a comprehensive review of the framework governing the electoral process, including constitutional, legal, political and administrative arrangements.

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The Raila Odinga-led coalition says the framework should also cover preparations  and conduct of elections, declaration of results, dispute resolution, electoral offences, observation, monitoring and evaluation of results.

Sources told Nation that Azimio plans to insist on addressing the cost of living, an end to interference in political parties and the preservation of the 2022 presidential election materials as priorities in the talks.

It also wants an end to police harassment of its leaders and supporters and an end to politically motivated prosecutions.

Azimio further wants the Finance Act, 2023 repealed to shield Kenyans from over-taxation. However, Kenya Kwanza insists that President William Ruto's administration has a comprehensive policy to address the cost of living.

Mr Musyoka said the committee would meet on Thursday to deal with interim measures, which are key to building confidence and paving the way for the actual engagement on Friday.

Mr Ichung'wah said the stakeholders' meeting will run from Friday to September 29, with each stakeholder given a maximum of 20 minutes to present their case.