OKA principals snub Uhuru, Raila meeting with pro-handshake MPs

President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during a new year luncheon hosted for Members of Parliament at State House, Nairobi. [PSCU]

One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals yesterday skipped a luncheon organised by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, reportedly scuttling the agenda of the State House meeting.

The Standard has established that OKA principals Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula had been invited.

Their absence reportedly forced Uhuru and Raila to confine their deliberations to parliamentary issues, with sources indicating that there were deliberate attempts to curtail discussions around the August 9 election.

At least 192 lawmakers perceived be loyal to the handshake partners are said to have attended the meeting-cum-luncheon that lasted for about an hour.

Mudavadi, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula confirmed receiving invitation, which they said came when they had already lined up other engagements.

Kalonzo said although he was aware of the MPs’ meeting, courtesy of his MPs, it was not until yesterday morning that he was invited, by which time he had planned his day.

“Hon Robert Mbui called me on Wednesday as a matter of courtesy on it. Senator Kiio Wambua also called to consult on the same, and I gave them my nod. This morning I received the invitation but in all honesty, it was rather late,” he said.

At the time the luncheon was happening, Kalonzo was winding up a charity event in Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Nairobi, where he asked the government to apologise to the slum dwellers over the police killings that took place there.

Mudavadi said he first read about the event in the media yesterday. He received an official invitation later.

“It is after reading in the press that I received an invite but I had already committed myself elsewhere,” he said.

Wetang’ula admitted that he received an invitation through the Senate Minority Leader and Siaya Senator James Orengo on Wednesday night, but he couldn’t accommodate it in his busy schedule.

“By that time, I had several lined up meetings, including meeting delegations from far, and could not break those. But I was represented by Chris Wamalwa, who is the Secretary-General of Ford Kenya,” said Wetang’ula.

But some MPs who spoke to The Standard said the meeting was purely parliamentary, but said they had expected more, given this is an election year.

“It didn’t last long, and there was nothing much apart from the lunch,” Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said.

An MP from Mt Kenya said the luncheon was mooted during the birthday party of Raila at his Karen home in Nairobi. MPs who attended the night party reportedly requested the President to host Azimio loyalists to appreciate them for pushing through the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

However, it was telling after some of the perceived allies of Mudavadi skipped the State House meeting while ANC legislators MPs who have declared support for Azimio La Umoja were in attendance.

MPs Sakwa Bunyasi (Nambale), Alfred Agoi (Sabatia), Beatrice Adagala (Vihiga) snubbed the event while Godfrey Osotsi (Nominated), Ayub Savula (Lugari), Christopher Aseka (Khwisero) among other ANC lawmakers attended the meeting.

“I was not invited to the meeting so I could not have attended. We are focused on saving this country from the parallels that have been imagined. For those who attended, I doubt they had been supplied with a clear agenda in advance,” Senator Petronila Lokorio, a close ally of Mudavadi said.

From the conversations with those who attended, a picture emerged of MPs who expected more than was delivered at State House. An MP who attempted to introduce a political agenda is said to have been rebuffed by the President who said the day was not for politics.

“He simply said he wanted to thank us for the work we did in Parliament, and apologised for interrupting our holidays. We had lunch and he left us,” Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo said.

Others speculated that the President and Raila may have held back on the main agenda given that the OKA principals were a no-show.

“I wouldn’t know but it may not be farfetched to think along that direction. The apprehension amongst my colleagues was palpable. The absence of our leaders may as well have changed the course of events,” Mutula Junior said.

It was not the first time the President was seeking to bring together all the opposition leaders in what is perceived as an attempt to unite them ahead of the polls. He has been pushing for a united opposition to defeat his estranged deputy William Ruto in the succession contest.

According to the official statement released by State House last evening, the President called on politicians to work together and promised to continue engaging with all leaders. He reminded politicians to conduct peaceful campaigns ahead of the General Election.

He praised the lawmakers for passing crucial Bills, including the controversial Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021, the National Hospital Insurance Fund Bill and the Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which he said are key to improving governance and delivery of services.

On Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, Uhuru said it was aimed at improving the country’s governance system and regretted that some leaders were demonising the amendment for short-term political gain.

Ruto’s camp in the National Assembly staged a major fight to block the passage of the Bill by proposing multiple amendments. Special sittings to consider the Bill descended into chaos as rival camps brawled.

The DP’s allies have claimed that the Bill was designed to allow for creation of tribal political parties that will work under Azimio La Umoja Movement withthe aim of propelling Raila to the presidency.

Uhuru urged the Senate to emulate the National Assembly in passing the Bill.

Raila commended the MPs for passing the Bill and urged the Senate to endorse it as well.

“I just want to say, like it has been said before, that law and Constitution making is always work in progress. Even the old age, democratic constitution of Unites States of America, is still work in progress,” said Raila.