Which way for Kenya after the bipartisan talks?

National Dialogue Committee co-chairs Kalonzo Musyoka (left) and Kimani Ichung'wah at the Bomas of Kenya, September 2023. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

Amid the ensuing post-election political squabbles, the willingness of the opposing sides to dialogue was a welcome move.

President William Ruto's announcement at a time when the opposition was contemplating more mass action, was pivotal in restoring stability.

The country had inextricably swung yet again, into what is now perennial national disconnect and election hangover. Formation of a bipartisan committee then followed after Azimio leader Raila Odinga accepted the president's invitation to dialogue, with membership drawn from Parliament.

The Kenya Kwanza team brought forth their grievances under the stewardship of National Assembly majority leader Kimani Ichungwa, while Azimio settled on Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

The committee's deliberations resulted into consolidated agenda factoring in the issues both sides deemed contentious. The process was also open to the input of various stakeholders including the civil society, churches and special interest groups. The government side wanted entrenchment of the position of prime cabinet secretary in the Constitution, creation of the official opposition leader, entrenchment of National Government Constituency Development Fund, the National Government Affirmative Action Fund and the Senate Oversight Fund.

Top of the issues dear to Azimio was the cost of living, electoral justice and fidelity to political parties. The opposition also expressed displeasure in the selection panel that looked to constitute the electoral body and enjoined a clamour for reconstitution.

Other stakeholders raise sensitive matters such as boundary reviews, with perceived minority groups and ethnicities demanding new constituencies and devolved units.

Kenyans noticed the miss out on the cost of living and a reluctant approach to audit of IEBC servers. The National Dialogue Committee then requested Parliament for extension of days. They want 30 more days to deliberate on the aforementioned subjects. But what is the way forward?

If earlier precedence is anything to go by, one would postulate that at every presidency, the country indulges in engagements akin to the current bipartisan talks, except for the terminology.

At the inception of President Kibaki's second tenure, there was a coalition government that cooled down 2007 post-election disputes. President Uhuru Kenyatta's second term also saw the inclusion of opposition leader Raila Odinga in a collaborative approach dubbed 'The Handshake Government'. President Ruto appears to be on a similar pedestal with the National Dialogue.

The Grand Coalition Government delivered the adoption of the 2010 Constitution. The Handshake Government attempted to amend the Constitution through the BBI. Resolving the range of issues raised to the current committee would necessitate amendments to the Constitution. Our laws provide for two approaches; parliamentary or popular initiative. Today, your curiosity is as big as mine. Which way after the bipartisan talks?

-The writer is a PhD candidate in leadership and governance