Uhuru Kenyatta

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the congregation at Full Gospel Church in Mwingi, Kitui County, on Sunday, November 19.

| Courtesy | OFPP

Why Uhuru is opposed to the National Dialogue Committee report

What you need to know:

  • Mr Kenyatta’s close allies told nation.africa that he is uncomfortable with the report for failing to address the current high cost of living and one-man-one-vote-one-shilling mantra popular with Mt Kenya voters.
  • Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni hinted that Mr Kenyatta could opt to lead a NO vote against the document should there be a referendum since it would be a hard sell it in Mt Kenya.

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta is turning out to be the face of opposition against the National Dialogue Committee report (NDCR) negotiated by his successor William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Mr Kenyatta’s stance on the document mirrors the position taken by President Ruto against the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that was initiated by the former Head of State and Mr Odinga.

Mr Kenyatta’s close allies told nation.africa that he is uncomfortable with the report for failing to address the current high cost of living and one-man-one-vote-one-shilling mantra popular with Mt Kenya voters.

Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni hinted that Mr Kenyatta could opt to lead a NO vote against the document should there be a referendum since it would be a hard sell it in Mt Kenya.

President Ruto had opposed BBI for prioritising creation of positions for the political class after the document proposed creation of Prime Minister and Official Opposition slots.

The current position taken by Mr Kenyatta against the document marks an unprecedented switch of roles by the two politicians while exposing the dishonesty by the political class since most of the proposals in NADCO report were contained in the botched BBI.

Although Mr Kenyatta has not openly rejected the report, he has been directly linked to the public rejection of the document by Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and his DAP-K counterpart Eugene Wamalwa.

Interviews with some officials of Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition has revealed behind-the-scenes pulling of strings by Mr Kenyatta for Mr Odinga to reject the document.

Reports of lobbying of Azimio MPs to reject some clauses in the report have also emerged. Mr Odinga had late last month held an Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting where he rallied the lawmakers to back the document when it is tabled in both the National Assembly and the Senate.

Sunday Nation has also learnt how Mr Kenyatta tried several times to persuade Mr Odinga to pull out of the talks, describing them as a waste of time, including when the two leaders met in London. According to an Azimio official, Mr Odinga did not commit to the request by Mr Kenyatta during the London meeting, but asked to escalate it with other coalition members.

The coalition would later convene meetings at Mr Odinga’s Karen home at the request of Mr Kenyatta to take a position just days before the report was unveiled.

In the meeting, Mr Wamalwa and Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni endorsed calls for rejection of the report.

Mr Wamalwa would later snub the unveiling of the report and subsequently rejected it for not addressing the high cost of living.

Mr Kioni yesterday told Sunday Nation that Mr Kenyatta’s position on the document was for the general good of the country.

Mr Kioni said the document failed to address the one man one vote one shilling that resonates with the Mt Kenya region.

He said the document also failed to protect the 26 constituencies that risk being scrapped for not meeting required population quota. Mt Kenya is one of the regions that could be affected since some of its constituencies are among the protected ones.

“He (Uhuru) knows what is good for this country. One thing that we are unhappy about is that this report does not address the high cost of living. It has failed to address the issue of protected constituencies and the one man one vote one shilling which is popular in our region,” said Mr Kioni.

“The document would be a hard sell in Mt Kenya if it cannot address those issues that were contained in the BBI. That is why there is a departure on how we are going to campaign for this document. How are we going to talk to the people when the report does not talk about their issues? We may choose not to campaign for the document,” he added.

He said the coalition has a common position on the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

“Raila is strong on IEBC which we agreed we can do through the statute. We are saying that let the MPs implement parts that do not require a referendum,” said Mr Kioni.

In his last address to Parliament in 2021, Mr Kenyatta lamented over the rejection of BBI by courts. He termed the courts’ decision on the proposals as a multiple loss to the country.

“The third loss was about expanding the national executive to accommodate a broader face of Kenya and expand representation. This would have constitutionalised the end of the winner-takes-all outcome of elections that creates so much toxicity and tension,” he told Parliament.

Creation of the offices of the Prime Cabinet Secretary and Leader of Official Opposition and proposal to achieve two-third gender principle which were contained in the BBI are also contained in the NADCO report.

Political analysts argue that the position taken by Mr Kenyatta is for political preservation. Fears of a rapprochement between President Ruto and Mr Odinga could have also informed Mr Kenyatta’s stance.

“Pressure on the one-man-one-shilling mantra works for Uhuru by splitting the Azimio coalition while undercutting (Deputy President) Gachagua's effort to become the kingpin of Mt. Kenya. That is to say, Gachagua is perceived as not pushing Ruto hard enough to advance the region's interests in the KK coalition,” says David Monda, a political analyst and a university lecturer.

Prof Monda argues that Mr Kenyatta could also be seeking to remain relevant for purposes of 2027 polls.

“He (Uhuru) might still have personal scores to settle with Ruto and Gachagua. It may look like a double speak on the part of Uhuru, but this is the nature of politics. Context changes, political players evolve. Today's enemies are tomorrow's friends. I see it as a natural play by Uhuru to maintain influence in national debates even as a retired president,” explains Prof. Monda.

Governance expert Javas Bigambo describes Mr Kenyatta’s stance as vindictive and part of fighting Dr Ruto.

“Ruto outmaneuvered him and Uhuru has not accepted his win. He is pursuing a path that would create turmoil for Ruto. Uhuru is not after the success of Ruto’s administration. He will be happy if Ruto does not succeed,” says Mr Bigambo.

“The position he is pursuing may also split from Azimio. Uhuru also wants to purchase political relevance. It is a political spot for Uhuru now but it shows that he is not led by the good of the nation,” he adds.

Former Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat said that Mr Kenyatta is seeking relevance for appearing to oppose the report and President Ruto.

“He is seeking relevance by opposing the current regime and to endear himself to the populace. But the truth is that the real catalyst behind the talks are Raila and Kalonzo,” said Mr Salat.

Mr Odinga during the opposition PG highlighted electoral reforms, extension of the presidential petition period from the current 14 to 21 days, increased allocations for counties from the current 15 per cent to 20 per cent, audit of the 2022 presidential elections as some of the achievements by the coalition camp during the talks.

The opposition side was also successful in pushing the government side to agree on cutting the travel budget by 50 per cent, reduction of Daily Subsistence Allowances for State and Public Officers by 30 per cent and reduction of road maintenance levy and the anti-adulteration levy by Sh5 and Sh3 per litre respectively.

But Mr Wamalwa and Ms Karua have described the report as a fraud meant to benefit the political class through creation of positions.

“We will continue fighting for Kenyans come next year so that what we wanted to be addressed concerning the common person is addressed,” said Mr Wamalwa recently.

Ms Karua in a recent statement said the finding of the report confirmed that the committee was formed by the “unwilling, composed of the incompetent to do the unnecessary.”

ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya said the coalition was making good progress in its approach in handling the report.

“We have made progress on most of the issues. If they were to be passed in its current form, we shall make some good electoral reforms and we are asking our members in Parliament to back it,” said Mr Oparanya.