President Uhuru Kenyatta has dashed any hopes of dialogue with the Opposition - outside the existing laws - to resolve the current electoral agency crisis.
The President and his deputy William Ruto maintained that any talks on the fate of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners must be within the confines of the Constitution.
The two were speaking during Madaraka Day celebrations at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium. Ruto set the ball rolling, saying calls for a round-table meeting by some disgruntled fellows would not be entertained.
“Those who are telling us that we should go back and have weighty public issues decided by a few people over a cup of tea in a tete-a-tete are taking us backwards,” Ruto said.
And in the evening yesterday, State House sent a statement to newsrooms clarifying that at no time did the President and the Opposition leaders agree to form a team to hold dialogue on the electoral agency.
“No such agreement was struck, as it would have been inconsistent with President Kenyatta’s stand on the subject, which is that any discussions on the IEBC or any other constitutional body must be done within the confines of the law,” the statement read in part.
The statement added that Uhuru and Ruto only intend to give their views to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, which will invite Kenyans to make their views on the IEBC and other electoral reform issues during sittings across the country.
In Nakuru, President Kenyatta said the country would not be held at ransom by a few individuals who were out to circumvent the law for their personal gains.
“The country is bigger than any individuals. We can differ as leaders because that is democracy, but it cannot be that things must be done in a way that pleases one person or certain individuals always. No,” said the President amid thunderous applause from the crowd.
The President’s remarks are likely to see a continuation of street protests by Opposition leaders and their supporters seeking the removal of the IEBC commissioners and minimal electoral reforms ahead of next year’s General Election.
CORD had suspended the protests and said they would resume on Monday if the President and Jubilee would not have called for a round-table dialogue.
President Kenyatta and Ruto were speaking less than 24 hours after hosting former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula at State House in Nairobi for a luncheon.
The meeting, however brief, had defused tension over the IEBC impasse and given hope that an amicable solution was in sight.
But yesterday President Kenyatta said he could not bend the law because of a few individuals and that he would remain faithful to the Constitution.
“As Kenyans, we came together and found a new Constitution that was agreed upon by a majority of people at the referendum. How now can it be that those leaders who pushed for us to have a new Constitution are now against it?” posed the president.
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The Head of State caused prolonged laughter when he said his deputy was also against the new Constitution during the referendum but since the majority of Kenyans chose it, he abides by the law.
“My deputy Ruto campaigned for the rejection of the Constitution because there were some specific issues he wanted sorted but the wave was too much and he respected the will of the people. At that point, those in CORD now did not want to listen to anyone opposing it but now because things do not favour them, they want to hold the whole country at ransom,” said the President. He added: “Let us respect each other and follow the law. We must be a nation that follows the rule of law. And I am not competing with anyone on this.”
He assured the Opposition that should any of them bring a petition against the IEBC, he would support it.
“I am ready to support any petition that comes through Parliament seeking to amend the law. Let us respect each other and follow the law. Let us also respect the will of the people,” he said.
President Kenyatta also took a swipe at the Opposition leaders for declining to attend the national celebrations, yet he had personally invited them.
“I invited them but cannot see them here. However, it is up to them if they have decided to hold a rally away from this but they should know that they will also want to be respected if they will ever be elected to power and they should learn to respect others too,” said the President.
Ruto launched a veiled attack at Raila, saying he seemed to have a problem with most of the institutions that were created under the Constitution.
The DP said most Kenyans want the business of the country to be decided by the institutions set up by the Constitution so that “it is predictable and not subject to the whims of anyone”.
“When we passed the new Constitution, they told the whole world that it was the most progressive and robust Constitution. I now wonder why they (Opposition) want us to transact the business of Kenya either over a tete a tete, over a cup of tea or the streets engagements clouded by clouds of tear gas,” Ruto said.
“Why do we want to move in that direction? What happened to the progressive Constitution that we passed?” he posed.
The DP, who spoke shortly after Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua had addressed the crowd, said: “All of us must subject ourselves to the Constitution. That is the only way we can remain a nation and that is the only way Kenya can make progress.”
Ruto said it was not tenable for one person or a group of a few people to have issues with institutions every time they have a problem with their politics.
“It is not possible that any time a decision is made by an institution and does not favour you, you say that institution should be disbanded. It is not possible if the Judiciary makes an unfavourable decision, you say the Judiciary should be dealt with. It is not possible that since you do not like a majority in Parliament, you say you have no faith in Parliament,” said Ruto. He added that leaders must be faithful all time.
“If you have a problem with IEBC, Judiciary and Parliament, what are your credentials as far as the rule of law is concerned?” he posed.