Talks team has 90 days to file report on IEBC reforms

Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo

Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, the chairperson of the Azimio negotiators, and his team during a press briefing at a Nairobi hotel on April 13, 2023.  

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The bipartisan committee named by President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga will have 90 days to submit a report to Parliament on reconstitution of the electoral commission and poll reforms, according to a draft motion.

Rival coalitions can also engage “experts, professionals and such other technical resource persons as they may deem necessary” in an apparent concession by the Kenya Kwanza government to Azimio’s demand for inclusion of members other than lawmakers.

But although the Majority and Minority party leaders shall provide rapporteurs to the joint select committee, the “official record will be the parliamentary Hansard”, with the Clerks of both Houses of Parliament providing secretarial services in accordance with the Standing Orders, the motion states.

The government has insisted the negotiations are a purely parliamentary process but the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition has demanded an expanded structure that mirrors the Serena talks that midwifed the National Accord in 2008.

The draft motion dated April 13 is signed by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah and asks Parliament to approve the names of the 14 lawmakers appointed by the respective coalitions to the joint select committee. The motion will be tabled in the House anytime from now.

“The committee shall receive views from experts, members of the public, the business community, civil society, religious groups, political parties, county governments and any other persons on matters relating to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the electoral process,” reads the draft motion.

At conclusion of the talks, the Majority and Minority leaders in Parliament will signify the approval of the final report and draft Bill(s) by affixing their signatures, it adds.

As the process gets underway, it emerged the talks could hit headwinds over the stalemate surrounding the inclusion of Eldas MP Adan Keynan as one of the negotiators for the government side.

Mr Odinga, the Azimio leader, has insisted that his camp will not take part in the talks if Kenya Kwanza coalition fails to withdraw Mr Keynan from its team, citing an assault to multi-party democracy.

Mr Odinga argues that Mr Keynan was elected on former president Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee party and is legally a member of his Azimio coalition, hence having him represent the government side is not in good faith.

“One of the terms of engagement we have put forth is deliberation on multi-party democracy to bring an end to party hopping and auctioning of our MPs and we find it in bad faith to include Keynan in the talks. We cannot negotiate with one of our own and he must be dropped from that team before we can engage,” Mr Odinga said during a rally at Kamukunji grounds on Sunday.

Yesterday, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa neither confirmed nor denied plans to withdraw Mr Keynan from the government team, but warned that the back and forth public engagements are likely to stall the talks.

He said that the government side is ready to respond to Mr Odinga’s concerns if his issues are raised formally and not in a public rally.

“On what Odinga says, we are yet to formally get that information and we will respond as soon as the matter is formally raised.”

Senate Majority Whip Dr Boni Khalwale, a member of the Kenya Kwanza negotiation team, said it is premature for Azimio to raise concerns against individual members of the committee even before the names are tabled in Parliament.

ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna and Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, all members of the Azimio dialogue team, accused President Ruto’s side of disrespect.

“We shall sit and talk, but we have agreed that its dialogue alongside demonstrations because these people don’t understand any other language,” Mr Wambua said.