Ruto, Raila teams in make-or-break retreat

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

The 10-member bipartisan team negotiating the 2022 post-election crisis will today (Wednesday) finalise a final report to be presented to President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The ongoing report writing is shaping up to be one of the most delicate and critical stages of the Bomas talks after the opposition threatened to reject the final document if it fails to address the high cost of living, exacerbated by high fuel prices.

Mr Odinga's Azimio coalition has blamed new tax measures by President William Ruto's Kenya Kwanza administration for the current high cost of living.

New tax measures that came into effect on July 1 have made life more expensive while hitting businesses hard with high taxes. The take-home pay of salaried Kenyans has also been significantly reduced as a result of additional statutory deductions.

The Nation understands that the team, currently in retreat in Machakos, is expected to complete its work today before presenting the document to President Ruto and Mr Odinga. The report will then be presented to the two Houses of Parliament for consideration.

Members of the National Dialogue Committee from both sides were tight-lipped yesterday on the progress made so far in drafting the final document. Sources in the talks team told the Nation that they were likely to conclude today. The team is expected to address the press today, the sources said.

"There is nothing substantial to report at the moment. We are likely to conclude tomorrow (Wednesday) or Thursday at the latest," said a member of the team.

Co-chairman of the talks team and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka said at the weekend that the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya coalition will not sign the final document unless it addresses the high cost of living.

"If there is no way to reduce the cost of living, there will be no deal to sign as the Azimio team. As we begin to prepare the report, we will ensure that it reflects the will of the people before we sign it and present it to Parliament," said Mr Musyoka.

"We have heard the views of Kenyans through your leaders and we will ensure that the report takes this into account, otherwise we will not sign it," said DAP-Kenya party leader Eugene Wamalwa, who is also a member of the talks team.

Economic experts who appeared before the team to discuss the high cost of living said it was a result of the government's unfavourable tax regime.

Increased taxation, unrealistic budget and revenue estimates, and lack of foreign direct investment (FDI) were cited by the experts as major contributors to the current high cost of living.

The team, co-chaired by Mr Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichungw'ah, had sought a one-month extension to the 60 days initially granted by parliament.  They now have until 26 November to submit the report. However, the team said it would submit the report by 22 November.

"The committee's final report and proposals will include a list of agreed and unagreed issues. The final report and proposals of the committee will be submitted to the respective coalition leaders. In addition, the committee's final report and proposals will be submitted to the leaders of the majority and minority parties in each house of parliament," the framework agreement states.

It adds: "Upon submission of the final report and proposals of the committee, the leader of the majority party and the leader of the minority party of each house of Parliament shall table them and ensure that any proposed reform is introduced in Parliament."

Azimio's demand that the government reduce the cost of living and push for an audit of the 2022 presidential election results remained contentious during the talks.

However, the opposing camps were largely in agreement with Raila Odinga on the proposed creation of the positions of Cabinet Secretary and Official Leader of the Opposition.

They also agreed on the two-thirds gender principle and the entrenchment of the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF).