Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and a section of Mt Kenya leaders are sceptical about the ongoing talks between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja One-Kenya Coalition.
While some have openly expressed they reservations, others who fear the process may push the region’s interests down the priority list are not willing to speak out.
On Tuesday, the Deputy President publicly displayed his lack of enthusiasm for the talks, saying what was important was delivering services to the people.
He said the “important dialogue” for him and President William Ruto was subsidising the cost of production like fertiliser, construction of roads and water projects.
“I called Aaron Cheruiyot four times yesterday but he could not pick my calls because he was in talks, later on I told him that the so called talks that they take pride in will come to an end and they find us way ahead in initiation of development projects,” said Gachagua during the funeral service for David Chekwony, husband of Njoro MP Charity Kathambi.
Cheruiyot, who is the Senate Majority Leader, is among the leaders representing the Kenya Kwanza administration in the bi-partisan talks which are jointly being spearheaded by the government led by National Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa and Opposition led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.
While Gachagua was dismissing the talks in Njoro, Ichung’wa and his Minority counterpart Opiyo Wandayi were tabling a Motion in Parliament to legalise the National Dialogue Committee.
Akin to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), the committee will recommend suitable, constitutional, legal and policy reforms concerning matters significant to Kenyans and will invite stakeholders, experts and Kenyans for their opinions.
It appears that Mt Kenya leaders are cautious of political ramifications that may befall the region.
Mathira MP Eric wa Mumbi told The Standard that he does not see importance of the dialogue and why it was being anchored in law, arguing that all the issues that have been listed for talks can be sorted out by Parliament.
“I don’t see the value and reason of the dialogue. I also don’t understand why the legitimately elected government is holding talks with the people we defeated in last year’s General Election. All the agenda listed for talks are the preserve of Parliament,” he said.
The MP maintained that the Opposition should give them a chance to serve the country and wait for 2027 to campaign on the platform of Kenya Kwanza failures.
Despite Azimio constantly denying that they were not interested in joining the Ruto administration, the leaders insist that the talks a ploy for a “handshake” between the Opposition leader Raila Odinga and the President.
“While I am there, I will ensure that nothing goes haywire. I have enough traps to net Raila whenever he tries to get his way into government and I will not allow,” said Gachagua.
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The National Assembly Budget Committee chairperson, Ndindi Nyoro, claimed Kenya Kwanza supporters are against dialogue with the Opposition.
“If I was to be asked, I would propose that we abandon the talks so that we can focus on service delivery to Kenyans. Our supporters do not want people who want to join the government through the backdoor,” said Nyoro at Narumoru in the presence of the President.
Others who are pushing the government to abandon the talks include Wahome Wamatinga (Nyeri Senator), and MPs Geoffrey wa Ndeto (Tetu) and Dancun Mathenge (Nyeri Town).
“Those leading the dialogue form the Azimio side can even disown their deliberations in the committee as they have the history of changing goalposts and this will bring their efforts to naught, instead of engaging them, its better we abandon the talks and focus on our aim,” Mathenge said.
Asked why the MPs are opposed to the dialogue, many who did not want to be quoted maintained that although they were briefed by the Head of State that the talks could not result in a handshake, the unfolding of events stated otherwise.
“The whole issues are coming out as the BBI but worse still, the issues of one-man-one-vote-one-shilling has been left out in talks, which are only discussing the creation of positions that the President campaigned against. This therefore means that the region issues will not be prioritised,” said an MP.
According to the legislator, it seems that the President and Raila have the end result of the process and the public is only being taken in circles.
“What if the two want to re-introduce the BBI constitutional review draft with adherence to the Constitution to avoid a repeat of the Supreme Court rejecting the document? If our fears would be confirmed, then the Opposition would join hands with other regions to push for the Parliament approval if Mt Kenya rejects and that is how we shall be doomed politically,” said a Woman Rep.
Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni, a member of the technical team, said their ultimate goal in Azimio will be a referendum.
However, Kioni cautioned that Mt Kenya would be the biggest loser if leaders failed to push for the regio’s interests, citing the one-man-one-vote-one-shilling call.
“The difference between the issues that we shall push and those contained in the BBI is the same only that our region will lose. We were duped to believe BBI was evil, but we may coin a new name such as Mama Mboga Initiative,” he said.
Governance expert Joshua Irungu, who is inclined to Kenya Kwanza, also said the discourse is likely to end up to a referendum, and cautioned Mt Kenya leaders both from government and the Opposition to shelve their differences and prioritise their region.
“In politics, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Leaders from Mt Kenya region who are in the dialogue must take that into account and push for one-man-one-vote-one-shilling and the minimum guaranteed returns for our agricultural crops,” he said.
Governance expert Gitile Naituli said the leader fear losing political relevance. “The fears are normal but if the architects of the National Dialogue Committee (the President and Raila) will have a political goodwill, then those teething issues will be addressed. The two need not to be held hostage by their allies,” he said.