National Super Alliance leader (NASA) Raila Odinga has rejected a plea by 35 clergymen to withdraw pre-conditions ahead of the October 26 repeat presidential elections. Instead the Opposition leader added another requirement in his list of demands before the repeat poll. According to sources who attended the meeting at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, Raila called for the unconditional withdrawal of the proposed amendments to electoral laws.
This adds to the conditions set by the NASA presidential before the elections should be allowed to proceed. Raila has stated that these are “irreducible minimums” which must be met otherwise the repeat elections will not be free and fair. However, he stated yesterday that there was room for further dialogue.
The meeting was chaired by ACK Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit and was the first of series of meetings planned by the church targeting the main players in the current stand-off, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Odinga.
“I am positive we shall find a solution to the stalemate we have since Raila gave us his word that he is ready to come to the negotiating table and that he is open to dialogue. We now plan to reach out to the Jubilee side,” Archbishop Sapit told Saturday Standard after the meeting.
The bishops also singled out Jubilee in their talks with Raila and said it should drop its hardened position.
At the meeting, Odinga is reported to have insisted that picketing and demonstration are part of democratic and constitutional rights of Kenyans.
He told the Bishops that his supporters have been carrying out peaceful protests but security agencies have been provoking and assaulting them.
The NASA presidential candidate repeated the ultimatum he has given to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that the elections will not be be held if the conditions are not met before the polls day.
“You don’t level the playground by placing more obstacles on the way, like the Jubilee is doing by introducing amendments to electoral laws. This is an indication that Jubilee don’t want the polls done on level play ground,” he said at the meeting.
The church leaders had taken issue with the street protests called by NASA as part of pressure on the IEBC commissioners to quit.
Archbishop Sapit and the team also appealed to the Raila to reconsider some of the pre-conditions he had given.
“As the Anglican Church of Kenya, we re-affirm our pledge to facilitate dialogue that promotes peace and national cohesion. We also call upon Jubilee not to adopt a hardened position but equally embrace dialogue and compromise for the sake of peace,” Archbishop Sapit stated.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Odinga held his ground that he will he would only participate in the fresh presidential polls if the government shelves plan to amend electoral laws.
He termed the Elections Act (Amendment) Bill 2017 and Election Offences (Amendment) Bill 2017 that were introduced in Parliament on Thursday as ‘retrogressive” and an extreme act of provocation.
“We do not want someone to changes the rules in the middle of a game. Introducing the proposed laws less than a month to the repeat elections is not only an act of extreme provocation but unacceptable,” said the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) boss.
Earlier in the morning yesterday, Raila also met with US, EU and UK envoys where they discussed on the Kenyan electoral process.
“We exchanged views on the country’s political situation in a meeting with a diplomatic delegation led by US Ambassador Bob Godec,” said Raila.
Archbishop Sapit, who read a joint statement on behalf of the clerics, reiterated the church’s call to the opposition coalition to disengage from pursuing street protests, and instead embrace dialogue.
He also downplayed concerns that yesterday’s meeting did not yield much, saying the NASA leader’s assurance that he was open to dialogue was a major milestone. The hardened position between Jubilee and NASA seems to have widened the rift between the two groups.
This is likely to be a rallying call when Raila and this three principals tours Vihiga, Kakamega and Busia this weekend.
They will have a roadshow from Serem, Shamakhoko, Majengo, Chavakali, Luanda before they hold a major political rally at Mumboha Stadium, Luanda.