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Stakes are high for Kalonzo and his team during bilateral talks

Elias Mokua
 Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

No handshake? Really? Then what is left to discuss between the bully Kenya Kwanza government and the hard-pressed to surrender Azimio Coalition?

Riding high on State power, favourable numbers in Parliament and having sent shivers of fear down the spines of protesters, the Kenya Kwanza side sees nothing major to dialogue about. Moreover, the right to demonstrate is not a given.

At least this is what the political speakers from the government side preach in barazas, funerals, car rooftops, roadsides or wherever they have a gathering. For Kenya Kwanza, the focus is the unofficially launched 2027 political campaigns or so it appears. The party’s supporters are home and dry. They just want to enjoy the dividends of their shareholding company as they prepare themselves for future elections.

For the Kalonzo Musyoka-led team to the talks, the stakes are high. Uncomfortably high. The Azimio supporters, who came out to the streets throwing their lives to live bullets and tear gas hold deep resentment towards Kenya Kwanza, and expect Kalonzo to make a statement of intent to their opponents in the resolutions of the dialogue.

Those in Azimio, with raw anger and frustration, expect Kalonzo to announce nothing less than a forensic audit of the 2022 presidential election outcome. Those who moderate their expectations, now that there is no nusu mkate, look forward to a give-and-take agreement so everyone leaves bruised but also appraised. Some Azimio supporters have given up on the whole election business arriving at the conclusion that it is all a façade; that their vote doesn’t count and, that perhaps, the winner is determined through other means. The latter will in future join the six million plus eligible voters who did not vote.   

Not every Kenyan is caged in either of the conflicting camps. Well, truth be told, this is a very small number who probably are living in bad faith. In other words, they only mind managing their small world, cursing or complaining, leaving other people to sort out the political contestations that risk the stability of the country.

The 'burden of proof' lies on the Azimio coalition to manage their supporters on the dialogue outcome. Being in Opposition is disgraced as it lacks “development funds”. Honestly, it is not a very enviable position to be in. Kalonzo has the huge task of emerging from the talks with a consoling message for his coalition. He cannot come out sounding compromised however much he will sing the patriotism song. The coalition’s supporters have even lost lives. The wounds and feelings of hurt are palpable.

In scenario building, parties, ideally, expect a win-win hence the best scenario for all. However, the worst must also be expected. That is the nature of dialogue.

My guess, on the part of Azimio, the worst scenario is to expect the Kalonzo team to bend to the immense pressure from different quarters to recognise Kenya Kwanza, that it has consistently said is illegitimate, as having won the election fairly and as upheld by the Supreme Court. I have seen massive campaigns all over the media calling for the coalition to “unequivocally” recognise the Kenya Kwanza regime. 

Kenyans expect the best scenario outcome to forge forward as a country. But, it helps to prepare beforehand for the worst scenario. I have no idea how the coalition would handle the “recognise Kenya Kwanza government legitimacy” scenario. Perhaps Azimio will follow the Donald Trump script - the man who does not recognise Joe Biden as the legitimate president of the USA aware that conceding “a loss” is not a legal requirement. After all, Kenya Kwanza is in power without being recognised by Azimio. Besides, it helps the coalition's supporters to manage their expectations and resign in some form of dignity.

Given our history since the unfortunate 2007/08 post-election violence, the “no handshake approach” is a zero-sum game. It provides a great opportunity to solve the dreaded election injustice demand or become a cornerstone to creating a caste system in Kenya.

-Dr Mokua is the executive director of Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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