Six leaders who brokered Ruto and Raila talks to end political unrest

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and President William Ruto. [File, Standard]

Six leaders were instrumental in organising the meeting between President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga in the presence of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Mombasa last week.

On Sunday, President Ruto admitted that he held talks with Azimio leader Raila where they agreed that the opposition would end weekly protests. He said he has a duty to ensure peace and harmony in the country and that is why he held the talks.

“We have agreed because you know I am the head of state I am obligated to make sure that every Kenyan whether they support my policies or not that their property is guaranteed, that there is peace in the country and I have given a commitment that going forward there will be no violence in Kenya,” he said.

Ruto allies Roads and Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah together with Raila’s confidants former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Suna East MP Mohamed Junet and political strategist Prof Makau Mutua played a critical role in brokering the peace talks.

Sources told The Standard that the leaders had secretly been talking with the Head of State and the opposition chief to come to the round table to end the anti-government protests that had led to the loss of lives and disrupted business.

Murkomen, Ichung’wah and Sudi are said to have separately convinced Ruto to meet Raila to cool down the political temperatures in the country.

Both Ruto and Raila had come under intense international pressure to put their heads together, with international calls made from Washington and London. Ruto had been advised against agreeing to talks through politically active mediators such as sitting presidents or neighbour personalities.

It is then the name of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was broached, a man both parties hold in high esteem. Long retired, ageing and having previously dealt with them in the post-2008 election crisis, they easily consented to his name.

Former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Before Friday when it was already clear that the talks were inevitable, Ichungw’a led the KK brigade in asking the Head of State to “live stream” his meeting with the Azimio leader. Obasanjo had already landed, and was meeting Raila at Joho’s residence.

“We only want to ensure that the issues you are engaging on touch on Kenyans, and we want the talks done openly, we want to make it easier for you...If you get two seats; your seat, his seat and a camera, then you project it live on TV, we shall be able to watch all over the country,” he said, in Kilifi.

 Official residence

At the Joho’s, Raila side agreed on the preliminaries from their side and reportedly refused to meet the President at his official residence, State House, Mombasa. Ruto who had already taken the flak for rebuffing the mediation of President Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania did not want to create another show by rejecting the venue and the mediator.

He easily acquiesced and a neutral venue was arranged, with only three of them in the room. On Monday, Ichung’wah said the issue of the cost of living was not discussed in the meeting contrary to what Azimio claimed on Sunday.

“I will dare Raila Odinga to tell Kenyans that the issues I wrote on my statement are not factual, the cost of living was not raised by the Azimio leader,” he said. Speaking during an interdenominational service in Ukunda, Kwale County, on Sunday, the President said leaders had agreed to embrace dialogue.

A section of Mt Kenya leaders met on Sunday night to review the new developments with sources indicating that they were opposed to Ruto’s talks with the opposition leader.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The meeting in Runda, which went late into the night was chaired by Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and was attended by some governors and leaders from the region.

A source said that the leaders were concerned that talks with Raila will be like rewarding impunity given that the businessmen in Nairobi had suffered every time the Azimio leader called for protests.

“The leaders were concerned that talks with Raila would send a wrong message that even after losing elections all one needed to do is cause chaos to get to the table of negotiation. They raised concern that Ruto could easily go the former President Uhuru Kenyatta way by allowing talks with the Azimio leader,” said the source.

While speaking in Ukunda during a church meeting, Ruto said that he had engaged the opposition leader and agreed that violence and destruction of property will not be accepted any more in the country’s politics.

“We can compete but there should be no room for violence. We agreed this cannot happen anymore. We cannot negotiate this,” he said.

Ruto said Kenya Kwanza has a robust plan and was already addressing cost of living but noted that it cannot be resolved immediately.