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National dialogue: Which way forward?

By Geoffrey Mosoku | January 19th 2015
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale.

Allies of both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga are opposed to calls for national dialogue for different reasons.

Several MPs from President Kenyatta's team do not support the proposed talks on grounds that it could be a clever way for Opposition leaders to negotiate their way to government.

On the other hand, some of Raila's lieutenants do not want the dialogue to take place, arguing it will be better for them to compile all blunders by the ruling Jubilee and present them to the people during elections.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed of ODM and Nyamira Senator Mongare Bw'Okongo of Ford Kenya are among those in Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) who do not see any value of holding talks with the Government.

However, Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar (Wiper) said he was initially opposed to the second round of talks but after party chiefs explained to him the rationale, he saw the wisdom.

Omar and Funyula MP Paul Otuoma (ODM) said issues like insecurity cannot wait until the next general elections and need a bi-partisan approach in addressing them.

"I am one of those who did not see the wisdom of the second round of calls for talks but it was explained to me. Unless there is consensus on some issues, we run the risk of losing some parts of this country,"Omar said.

Otuoma said: "We may differ on ideological issues but have to find a way of rallying behind the national flag. There are things that can't wait for an election. We do not have to wait for disasters and funerals to come together." He said dialogue should be around something of common interest and this does not necessarily mean the Opposition wants to join the Government. He regretted that very noble ideas get enshrouded in personalities. "Unfortunately, dialogue has been trivialised. It has been given a bad name," he said.

However, Majority Leader Aden Duale maintained his hardline stand on dialogue, saying CORD was not genuine and had ulterior motives.

"When Raila came back from the US, CORD called for dialogue and gave ultimatums, which they later changed. On Saba Saba Day, they announced a referendum and as we are waiting for it, they have now changed and returned to dialogue. What exactly does the Opposition want?" Duale quipped.

The majority leader said dialogue must start within the Opposition parties themselves, and specifically ODM, whose activities have been marred with violence.

Duale's assertions were supported by Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, who said CORD does not appear to state their intentions.

They are asking for dialogue. Dialogue between who and who? Which structures are going to dialogue? Is it between the Office of the President and Opposition? Is it in Parliament or where will it take place? What are the terms and structures of the dialogue?" Kamau asked.

Kiambu Woman Representative Nyokabi Gathecha and Lari MP Mburu Kahangara said the persistent calls for dialogue by the Opposition was a well calculated move aimed at showing the world that the Jubilee government's leadership had failed.

"Giving in to dialogue is like a man winning a woman's heart and marrying her, only for former suitors to ask him to give them room to show them how to make babies," said Nyokabi

But Bw'Okongo and Junet insisted any dialogue will boost the ruling coalition government other than CORD, adding that the Opposition leadership must engage Kenyan citizens directly.

"We in CORD should not dwell on asking for dialogue, with Jubilee stuck in the mud of national mismanagement. This is like two competing safari rally drivers, one driver has been stuck in the mud and the other pulls off and starts to push his competitor's car out of the mud," Bw'Okongo added.

The Nyamira senator said CORD, which boasts of 24 out of 47 counties, should embark on engaging the said counties, both the assemblies and executive for service delivery and create model counties as a stepping stone for taking power in 2017.

Omar added that regardless of the fact that CORD had moved on since their first bid to hold the dialogue with Jubilee flopped, the issue of insecurity has to be dealt with in a bi-partisan approach.

"Who wants to be in a government that is bogged with ethnicity, has alienated sections of society and wants to tear the country's Constitution? All we are saying is that a solution has to be found on some issues like insecurity."

Junet added: "CORD must and should continuously engage the people directly including the forthcoming referendum and the 2017 elections. Jubilee appears to be stuck in 2013."

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