Azimio leader Raila Odinga has broken his silence on the intrigues that led to the ceasefire between him and President William Ruto, paving way for bipartisan talks. The opposition leader yesterday said emissaries from both camps had been leading the process, with the initial request to for talks coming from Kenya Kwanza.
“There is nothing further from the truth than the allegation that I met President William Ruto at Maasai Mara,” said Raila.
“There has been no meeting between me and Ruto. The meeting that was there was between emissaries from both sides. The request for talks came from the other side and that’s when we gave our conditions,” he added.
Raila’s media address came just minutes after a similar one by President Ruto in Kigali where he was meeting with Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.
Ruto ruled out any possibility of a handshake saying when the opposition fuses with the government, accountability is compromised and the system becomes rogue.
“There are handshakes that bring the opposition and government into some conundrum and a mongrel and an outfit that is undemocratic, unconstitutional and illegal,” he said.
And in a rejoinder, Raila maintained that he was not interested in a handshake with the Kenya Kwanza regime. “I want to make it clear that I’m not interested in any handshake. I don’t know where this narrative is coming from...In fact, someone tell (Deputy President) Gachagua that I do not want to shake his hand,” he said.
To that effect, the Azimio chief, accompanied by his co-principals Martha Karua and Kalonzo Musyoka, gave a list of four demands which he said would guide deliberations with the Kenya Kwanza administration.
First is addressing the cost of living as agreed upon in a series of meetings since Sunday between the Azimio principals.
“This meeting agreed that the high cost of living is urgent and can’t wait. The meeting reiterated our commitment to the envisaged dialogue between the parties,” he said.
The second irreducible minimum is the audit of the August 2022 election servers which the opposition termed as urgent. It also reiterated the need for the reform and reconstitution of the electoral commission.
Free and fair
Raila also called for fidelity to the letter and spirit of multiparty democracy in Parliament, demanding that MPs who had shifted to Kenya Kwanza go back to their parties to ensure the parliamentary process was free and fair.
He further revealed that their meeting touched on the composition of the bipartisan committee, the implementation of the recommendations, and the involvement of leaders outside Parliament.
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“It is the resolution of this meeting that a purely parliamentary process may not serve the intended ends. Our suggestion is to have a conversation at the national level through a process akin to the 2008 National Accord. To this end the coalition proposes a team drawn from its ranks both in Parliament and outside Bunge,” stated Raila.
Already, a 14-member team drawn from the National Assembly and the Senate has been identified and will represent the Azimio front in the talks with President Ruto’s side. Their names will be made public after the Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting slated for Thursday. “They will sit outside Parliament, negotiate and present the final product from both sides to Parliament for deliberation,” said Raila.
He was also categorical that the issues raised by the opposition carried equal weight but emphasised the need to immediately address the high cost of living by implementing steps to bring back the cost of unga to Sh100.
Raila further resolved that Kenya Kwanza should implement policies to lower the cost of fuel and put a freeze on the recent increase in the cost of electricity.
“Further, we have resolved that the State must immediately take up the cost or waive all medical bills of the victims of police brutality including journalists, and the last expense costs of those who lost their lives,” said Raila.
Failure by the Kenya Kwanza administration to meet their demands, he said, Azimio supporters would go back to the bi-weekly mass protests.
“We assure our people and Kenyans that our eyes are firmly on the ball, and reiterate that we shall go back to the people as the earliest sign of lack of seriousness by the other side,” concluded Raila.
The development comes as the Azimio and Kenya Kwanza are set to hold Parliamentary Group meetings before House sittings resume on April 11.
The coalitions plans were disclosed by the National Assembly Majority Whip Sylvanus Osoro and Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi.
Osoro said the Kenya Kwanza is planning a joint PG meeting bringing together members of the Senate and the National Assembly. He said the date and venue will be communicated on Wednesday, April 5.
On the other hand, Wandayi said Azimio will hold its PG on Thursday, April 6 in Machakos county.