What you need to know:
- The Bill is intended to pave the way for formation of the Azimio Coalition Party.
- ODM leader Raila Odinga says amending constitutions and laws is normal in democracies.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday openly declared his support for the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill that is intended to pave the way for formation of the Azimio Coalition Party, in the clearest sign yet of his plan to take firm charge of his succession plans.
The Head of State held lengthy meetings with the legislators, after which his press team, in a statement, described Mr Odinga as a “presidential candidate,” yet again showing his partiality for the ODM party leader who, like his competitors, is yet to get the electoral agency’s clearance to be officially referred as a candidate.
Members of the Senate and the National Assembly drawn from President Kenyatta’s Jubilee, Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as well as those allied to the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) attended the State House luncheon.
President Kenyatta has so far avoided overt involvement in the August 9 presidential race that will mark the end of his tenure.
The President took a swipe at Deputy President William Ruto’s political allies, who have been opposed to the Political Parties Bill that sailed through the National Assembly and is currently awaiting the Senate’s vote.
“And the political parties amendments that we are trying to push through, which some people have tried to demonise as they demonised BBI (Building Bridges Initiative)... The Bill is giving us an opportunity to be able to formally work together across political parties in the interest of the nation,” the President said.
Legislators allied to the DP’s United Democratic Alliance were not invited to the State House meeting.
The Head of State first held private talks with Mr Odinga, who he is increasingly holding out as his preferred successor, before going into another meeting with House leaders, where he reportedly declared his intention to openly show his hand in the election campaigns.
August political contest
“He committed that he will be at the centre of the political campaigns now that it is an electioneering year,” said Jubilee party Deputy Secretary-General Joshua Kutuny.
The Cherang’any MP added: “The main message was that the President told the team, which was united in Parliament [in support of the Bill], that he would like to see them remain united as we move forward to the August General Election.”
Mr Kutuny said the President cut the image of a Head of State who is ready to unleash his power of incumbency and directly influence the August political contest.
“He is someone who is determined to take charge of his succession. He is pushing for a team that is going to unite Kenyans. He also assured us that he’s going to reach out to like-minded leaders. Now we’re waiting, he has promised that he will give direction soon,” Mr Kutuny told Nation.
Thereafter, the Head of State addressed the over 200 MPs from both Houses.
A legislator who attended the meeting with House leaders said President Kenyatta, using the analogy of a coach and a captain in a football match, said Mr Odinga would be the Azimio captain as he coaches the team to ensure victory in the coming elections.
President Kenyatta reportedly told the MPs that they will see more of him this electioneering year.
An ODM legislator told Nation what President Kenyatta had told the meeting. In his talks with other leaders, including OKA principals, the Head of State sought to form a united team.
“I am a proud member of Jubilee, but I am an even prouder member of the Kenyan society, which is reflected here today. This is what we are trying to achieve. To say that we may belong in many different homes, but we can actually work together for the interests of 50 million Kenyan people,” President Kenyatta said in his remarks after Mr Odinga addressed the lawmakers.
An MP from Western serving his first term apparently shouted “Azimio!” during the meeting, but President Kenyatta reportedly answered that he would not discuss politics at the lunch meeting.
Among MPs from Ford Kenya and Wiper parties who attended the meeting were Dan Maanzo (Makueni), Makali Mulu (Kitui Central), Ayub Savula (Lugari) and Chris Wamalwa.
The President asked senators to speed up passage of the coalitions Bill. He described MPs allied to the DP, who are opposed to the Bill, as repeating their anti-BBI stance, which her termed misplaced.
The Bill provides for the formation of coalition parties, with Jubilee, ODM and other parties widely expected to merge under the Azimio banner, which Mr Odinga will use for this fifth bid for the top job.
In his speech, Mr Odinga reiterated his support for constitutional amendment, which, he said, was a never-ending national duty.
Raila's presidential bid
“Law and constitution-making is always work in progress. Even the democratic constitution of the Unites States of America is still [a] work in progress, and they have got several amendments which they always put to use...
“It’s not a crime for somebody to see something is wrong in our Constitution or in our law that we need to change, because it always makes things better,” Mr Odinga said.
ODM chairman John Mbadi, who is also the Minority Leader in the National Assembly, and Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati, said the Head of State and Mr Odinga underscored the need for the team to work together.
“The President and Baba (Mr Odinga) asked us to continue working together for unity and for the sake of the country,” Mr Mbadi said.
The meeting came just two days before Mr Odinga’s visit to Kiambu tomorrow, where he is expected to campaign for his presidential bid.
“Jakom (Mr Odinga) is visiting Thika this week for Azimio campaigns and he will first meet some leaders from the region before addressing a rally at the stadium,” Mr Nduati said.
The President also used the opportunity to thank MPs for passing the anti-money laundering Bill, which, he said, will lead to “a respected banking system that can only help improve and mature our economy”, as well as that of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).
“The Bill on NHIF and the other Acts around the health sector are now going to open up and give us the opportunity to be able to give our people that which we promised them—the universal healthcare,” he said.
Additional reporting by Justus Ochieng and Samwel Owino