Raila pushed to disown statement that missed cost of living in talks

Azimio leader Raila Odinga. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Senior Azimio leaders worked up their leader Raila Odinga into officially trashing a lopsided “agreement” on the agenda of political dialogue with their arch-rivals Kenya Kwanza.

The ink had barely dried on a “joint statement” signed by Kimani Ichungw’a, the Majority Leader at the National Assembly, when Raila appeared in an Azimio event, to formally denounce it, and to insist on placing cost of living and electoral justice at the core the talks.

But before that, anxious Azimio leaders had rained protests on their leader, asking why the issues they had been pitching for since last year were left out, and their place taken up by what they considered as “bogus” issues such as the embedding of the Office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary.

And although the Azimio part of Ichungw’a’s statement was not signed, the leaders appeared to blame Raila for team he chose to draft the statement with the KK leadership. Ichungwa’s statement had isolated five issues, and framed them unilterally as the sticking issues.

The five were reconstitution of the electoral commission, implementation of the two thirds gender rule, entrenchment of Constituency Development Fund, establishment of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and finally, the embedment of the Office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary.

“Our priority for discussion is the escalating cost of living which has only got worse with the lifting of the conservatory order on the 2023 Finance Act last week,” an Azimio statement read in the presence of Raila by former CS Peter Munya said.

Last week, Munya officially became party leader of the former ruling party, Party of National Unity following a notification of change of party officials made in the Kenya Gazette.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga walk to stage to pick a Public Service vehicle to Nairobi's CBD on July 10, 2023.

Besides Raila and Munya, those present at the denouncement event was Narc-Kenya party leader Martha Karua, DAP-K leader Eugene Wamalwa, Usawa Kwa Wote party leader Mwangi Wa Iria, ODM deputy leader Wycliffe Oparanya and National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi. Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka did not attend.

The team was also vexed by the manner their KK colleagues had embraced the dialogue, noting that there was a clear attempt at denying the role played by former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo in the breakthrough.

I'm having sleepless nights over high cost of living- President Ruto

Inside sources said ahead of the meeting with President William Ruto, Obasanjo had met Raila at the house of former Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho where the ground rules were agreed. Later Raila, Obasanjo and President Ruto met for a strictly tripartite meeting at a neutral venue in Mombasa.

The three poured their hearts to each other, with the President reportedly taking a particular issue at what he felt as “different” treatment by Azimio side on account of his background as “a nobody”.

Ruto background

“He kept on harping of this thing of his background, and felt that this was the basis of Azimio’s strong repulsion towards his government,” a source privy to the Ruto-Raila-Obasanjo meeting told the Standard.

Despite the meeting having been a three-some affair, Ichungw’a released the lopsided statement that was picked up by the media as the official position, despite it missing Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi’s signature.

Ichungw’ah is however said to have obtained endorsement of three key allies of Raila, whom the Azimio leadership had been quite apprehensive of in the last few months on account of their dealings with KK, and missing out on key Azimio events- including the demos.

By yesterday morning, the groundswell for a formal split in Azimio had grown. For Azimio blogger and Member of County of Assembly Robert Alai, it was impossible to fathom the exclusion of cost of living in the Ichung’wa statement which had not yet been denounced, almost 12 hours after it was made.

“If cost of living isn’t part of the negotiations, me and Hon. Babu Owino will demand that we have a parallel initiative, which is away from this kalongolongo,” he wrote, to which Karua responded: “A wish list by the KK; Azimio issues remain the same with cost of living being No.1 priority.” Babu had blazed the trail on the matter on Saturday evening, dismissing the list of issues as “total nonsense”. They all blamed Raila’s trio of comrades for sanctioning the statement, and failing to stop it before it went out.

Yesterday, the Azimio leaders reiterated that they were committed to dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the social, economic and political problems the country is facing and they sanctioned a meeting with Kenya Kwanza, under the facilitation of former President Obasanjo.

Munya confirmed Raila met Ruto in the presence of Obasanjo to prepare ground for honest discussions on pertinent issues they have been raising and those that Kenya Kwanza feel should be addressed.

“In that spirit, we sanctioned a meeting between our leadership and that of Kenya Kwanza, under the facilitation of H E Olusegun Obasanjo,” read the statement.

“This initial meeting was to prepare the ground for honest discussions of the issues we have been raising and those that Kenya Kwanza feels like raising. The meeting was therefore a talk about envisaged talks.”

Previously, the opposition accused Kenya Kwanza of deceit having denied the presence of Tanzania President Samia Suluhu in Kenya a few weeks ago.