Ruto, Raila camps pick hardliners in Parliament for bipartisan talks

Azimio-One Kenya Alliance leadership led by Raila Odinga address the press in Nairobi on April 4, 2023. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

As the country waits with bated breath for bipartisan talks to stop more mass protests, Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya have picked tough representatives for the team. The parliamentary leader of the two sides will name 14 members to the ad hoc parliamentary bi-partisan committee to debate issues raised by Azimio.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwah, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot, National Assembly Chief Whip Silvanus Osoro and Senate Chief Whip Boni Khalwale are expected to form part of the government side.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tabitha Karanja, National Assembly Deputy Majority Leader Owen Baya and National Assembly Deputy Chief Whip Naomi Waqo are some of the names being floated for the team to represent President William Ruto.

The National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, his Senate counterpart Stewart Madzayo, Senate Minority Whip Ledama ole Kina, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Enoch Wambua and Senate Deputy Whip Edwin Sifuna are expected to represent the opposition.

There are indications that Embakasi East MP Babu Owino, Kathiani MP Robert Mbui and Likoni MP Mishi Mboko, who have been vocal in pushing the Azimio agenda in Parliament and during its rallies, could join the team.

On Wednesday, Cheruiyot revealed that he had met Ichungwah over the matter, adding that their team was ready for talks.

"We will be having a Parliamentary Group meeting for the Kenya Kwanza Alliance next Tuesday so that we can inform our members of the issues at hand so that they can give us a go-ahead. They have a right to agree on the agenda or give counter proposals," he said.

He said they have a bigger responsibility being part of the government, and that they were not going to sit at the same table with opposition leaders because of threats but out of a desire to resolve issues in a mature way.

The Kericho Senator said Parliament, as the legislative arm, has the constitutional mandate to make laws with the representatives of the people and that the National Accord as proposed by Azimio leader Raila Odinga implied a power-sharing deal, which they cannot agree to.

"Raila Odinga is shifting goalposts. On Sunday, he agreed to have a bipartisan committee co-chaired by both Azimio and Kenya Kwanza, but flipped later on Tuesday. He is being held hostage by hardliners in his camp who want to be accommodated," said Cheruiyot.

An Azimio parliamentary leader who sought anonymity said their team was ready and that they will be holding a Parliamentary Group meeting in Machakos today where they will inform members what has transpired since Sunday.

Terms of engagements

The legislator revealed that the top leadership of Azimio in the Senate and the National Assembly have been included in the draft team, but cautioned that the final decision will be made by members who will be required to look at those selected and their suitability to safeguard interests of the coalition.

The legislator said today's PG meeting will define how they will engage with their Kenya Kwanza colleagues so as not to be shortchanged.

"Our leader Raila Odinga has made it clear over our terms of engagements with Kenya Kwanza. Members of Parliament from Azimio la Umoja will be meeting so that they can be updated and given a chance to air their views over engagement with our opponents," he said.

Ichungwah said the President was calling on Parliament to take its rightful role in addressing the matters raised by the opposition observing that he had already sent a memorandum to the National Assembly Speaker in December last year.

He noted that President Ruto had recommended the creation of the Office of Leader of Official Opposition in Parliament and the inclusion of various funds in the Constitution, which would necessitate amendments.

"The President is basically asking Parliament to play its rightful role in looking into the proposals made by the opposition and come up with a win-win situation for both sides of the political divide," he said.

Khalwale, however, said calls to have the exercise conducted outside Parliament might imply Raila does not have confidence in legislators from his coalition, and asked him to name members of his team as soon as possible.

Karanja called on both teams to support the initiative started by the President and former Prime Minister since Kenyans from both sides of the political divide need peace to build the nation.

Babu said Azimio side will be considering parties, gender and age when forming the team of seven, elaborating that he will be angling for a position to represent the youth.

Madzayo and Wandayi were among leaders who were recently arrested during demonstrations by the opposition in the city and later released with their charges later dropped.

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