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Uhuru's talks with Raila, OKA leaders hit another deadlock

By Jacob Ngetich and Moses Nyamori | August 19th 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta with OKA party leaders at State House, Mombasa yesterday. Also present were Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, and CSs Fred Matiang'i (Interior) and Mutahi Kagwe (Health). [PSCU]

President Uhuru Kenyatta's meeting with ODM leader Raila Odinga and One Kenya Alliance principals failed to reach an agreement after leaders disagreed to a proposal for the 2022 presidential race.

For the second time, President Uhuru Kenyatta is said to have shared a second confidential opinion poll putting his deputy William Ruto ahead of ODM leader Raila Odinga and asked OKA principals to show him how they intend to neutralise the growing popularity without Raila.

In the tense meeting at State House, Mombasa that begun at around 1pm and ended after 5pm, the President is reported to have asked OKA principals Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and  Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya) to consider working with Raila, but consolidate their bases. 

The President reportedly told Raila and the OKA principals to sell their agenda to the people but leave their options open on the presidential candidate. It was a busy day for the President who held a meeting with Raila in the morning and later Kalonzo before he met all the party leaders.

"There is still no breakthrough the leaders have decided to push the talks until after the Court of Appeal ruling on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) on Friday, when they can resume their talks that could also factor the judgement's realities," said a source.

Another source said: "It is not all gloom, where we are making progress, the meeting could be inconclusive because of the pending BBI case but some hardline positions are thawing, but still dragging the negotiations." 

The meeting comes hot on the heels of two major developments where Raila while meeting Mt Kenya leaders and businessmen in Nakuru outlined his roadmap to the 2022 presidential race and OKA principals meeting in Naivasha that resolved to field a joint presidential candidate.

It also comes amid heightened political activity a day before the Court of Appeal delivers the judgement on the BBI.

The verdict of the Court of Appeal will shape the political landscape going forward and is set to anchor pre-election pacts and alliances.

Coming eleven months before the General Election on August 9, 2022, the judgement of the seven-judge-bench will define political realignment.

The Court of Appeal president, Justice Daniel Musinga, Justices Roselyne Nambuye, Hannah Okwengu, Patrick Kiage, Gatembu Kairu, Fatuma Sichale and Francis Tuiyott judgement will determine 21 counts of the cases that arose from the High Court.

The BBI Bill had proposed changes on 78 pieces of law that could included the expansion of the executive, increase in the number of members of the National Assembly by an extra 70 seats and increase in allocation of county funds from 15 to 35 per cent among other proposals.

The three proposals have been a hot potato in the political scene.

Uhuru has hosted Raila three times in Mombasa twice with OKA leaders where succession politics has been discussed devoid of the BBI equation.

OKA principals, from left; ANC Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Gideon Moi (KANU) and Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya) at Kalonzo's Karen offices, Nairobi. May 18, 2021. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

Previously, the ODM leader had insisted that he would not engage in 2022 politics until the court delivers the judgement on BBI.

Yesterday, Raila said that he will not move to the Supreme Court should the Court of Appeal rule against the push to amend the Constitution.

Speaking on Radio Nam Lolwe, the ODM leader said his focus is on 2022 General Election but he will revisit BBI after Kenyans go to the ballot.

“We will not move to the Supreme Court if the court dismisses BBI. Our focus now is on elections but we will come back for BBI after elections,” said Raila whose Handshake with President Kenyatta birthed the BBI process to amend the law after the divisive 2017 presidential polls.

Raila revealed plans to work with OKA principals ahead of the elections.

“We want to form a coalition of the willing. We want everyone on board and we are still in talks,” he said.

His agenda, he said, is to tackle corruption, enhance unity, stability, social cohesion and religious diversity.

“We want to address corruption, tribalism and improve the lives of Kenyans,” said Raila.

Ruto has opposed BBI, saying it has derailed government agenda. In Ruto's circle, it will be party time should the court slam the brakes on BBI.

Should the reverse happen Ruto's team will have to go back to the drawing board including a possible move to the Supreme court, albeit through proxies.

After the talks, State House spokesperson Kanze Dena - Mararo sent a statement to newsrooms indicating that the President and the political leaders had met to discuss the Covid -19 situation in the country which resulted in the review of the pandemic's protocols.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with OKA party leaders at State House, Mombasa yesterday. [PSCU]

"President Kenyatta today at State House, Mombasa met a cross-section of political party leaders to discuss the country's Covid-19 containment measures in the wake of rising infection and mortality rates," read the statement. 

She said the leaders agreed to play a leading role in encouraging Kenyans to abide by the Covid-19 containment protocols and interventions including uptake of vaccines.

"Once again, the political party leaders applauded Government efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country, and appealed to Kenyans to take personal responsibility so as to safeguard their health and wellbeing," read the statement.

Present at the meeting were Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, and Cabinet Secretaries Fred Matiang'i (Interior) and Mutahi Kagwe (Health) among other senior Government officials. 

When contacted, ODM chairman and Suba South MP John Mbadi said he spoke to Raila and it was about concern over the surge in Covid-19 cases.

“We cannot discuss about the meeting immediately and on phone. We discussed the planned activities with tomorrow (today) event on but the Friday one has been postponed,” said Mbadi. Raila is expected to roll out his Azimio La Umoja road map for 2022 starting in Homa Bay county today before proceeding to Kakamega tomorrow and next week camp at the Coast.

But, insiders who spoke to The Standard downplayed the Covid-19 deliberations saying the main agenda was a formidable alliance to face Ruto in the August 9, 2022, presidential polls.

"The leaders are still playing hardball, but it it is in their interest according to the President to retain their support base as was case in 2017 and further extend their vote hunt to the regions that voted overwhelmingly for Jubilee," said the source.

In the meeting, Raila reportedly said he was ready to work with the OKA principals and have joint nomination primaries to pick the most popular candidate.

Yesterday, Lugari MP Ayub Savula warned Mudavadi against dropping his presidential bid in favour of Raila.

"Amani Council resolved that Mudavadi is our automatic presidential candidate. We will not allow him to back down on this ambition," said Savula.

"We will scuttle any attempts from whichever quarter that is trying to push him into agreeing to such a deal," he added.

ODM leader Raila Odinga. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa said they expect robust consultations before any agreement is arrived at.

He said the common agenda by all the parties was to ensure they capture power when President Uhuru retires in 2022.

"We don't expect people to be coerced into making certain decisions. We will be okay with a decision arrived at through consultations and consensus," said Wamalwa.

Ruto's ally and Tharaka/Nithi senator Kithure Kindiki said it was the President’s democratic right just like any Kenyans to have a preferred candidate for the 2022 polls to succeed him.

"The meeting Uhuru convened of the expanded NASA is in order. The leaders are also free to seek his support,” argued Prof Kindiki.

“There is nothing wrong with politics of endorsement. We however demand them to accept that the organized meeting to declare the presidential candidate at Statehouse and Office of the President or whichever the process is, it is a state project," he added.

“They should accept the this is a state project given to Kenyans for the 2022 general elections.

Prof Kindiki said the President has a right to support anybody or group. This is democracy which the people of Kenya may accept or disagree with them.

- Additional report by Harold Odhiambo

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