Lawmakers to begin bipartisan talks

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya and Kenya Kwanza Alliance teams have reached consensus and are expected to commence bipartisan talks on Thursday in Nairobi. 

The Standard has established that the consensus was reached after behind-the-scenes meeting held on Wednesday by both parties shortly after reports of two parallel meetings slated for today emerged.

“That issue of holding parallel meetings is no longer there. We have agreed to collapse both meetings and have a neutral one tomorrow (Thursday) morning at a neutral location from 9am in Nairobi. The location will be made public soon,” said National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi.

Earlier, there was confusion over the fate of the bipartisan talks after Azimio and Kenya Kwanza called for a meeting in different locations.

On Tuesday, Kenya Kwanza officially submitted the names of seven members to participate in the bipartisan talks to Parliament and wrote to the Office of the Clerk to provide the ad hoc committee with a venue to host the talks within the precincts of the august House.

In the letter dated April 18, Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah noted that the committee’s inaugural meeting was slated for Thursday.

Parallel meeting

But hours later, Azimio co-chair in the bipartisan talks, Otiende Amollo, called for a parallel inaugural meeting for the two negotiation teams today.

In letters addressed to Pokot South MP David Pkosing and Tharaka Nithi MP George Murugara, seen by The Standard, Mr Otiendoe invited them to the meeting which he said would be held at Serena Hotel from 8am.

“Taking note that no person has to the best of my knowledge been appointed as co-chair for the Kenya Kwanza coalition and alive to the reality that time is of the essence in this endeavor, I hereby invite you to the inaugural meeting of the two bipartisan negotiation teams at the Serena Hotel on April 20, 2023, starting 8am,” read the letter in part.

“I write to you as the co-chair of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party/ Kenya Kwanza bipartisan dialogue team having been appointed as such on April 6 and April 7, 2023, respectively as per the enclosed press statements.”

In a rebuttal, Mr Murugara wrote to the Azimio co-chair informing him that he would not attend the Serena meeting as he had committed to the parliamentary meeting.

“As co-chair to this process, I would humbly request and encourage you to call off your meeting as a show of utmost good faith so that we can all attend one meeting that is facilitated and coordinated by Parliament. This will ensure that this very important process we are about to engage in is both formal and well structured,” he said.

Kenya Kwanza MPs have now welcomed the consensus saying it was a step in the right direction despite the consistent shifting of goal posts by the Azimio brigade.

Neutral location

“One party cannot be claiming to call for a meeting where the other is not comfortable. Both co-chairs should now sit and agree on the modalities of the meetings and a neutral location where the talks will take place. The talks are the only way to put the country back on track. By Azimio calling for a parallel meeting, they were trying to stall the process. But I’m glad they came back to their senses,” said Sabatia MP Clement Sloya.

A senator who is part of the bipartisan talks team - but who requested not to be named - said they had reached consensus and the talks would go on as planned. “Some of the leaders were just playing to the gallery by making contradicting statement. But we have now ironed out a few issues with more to be discussed in our inaugural meeting.”

The Kenya Kwanza team for the bipartisan talks comprises of senators Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Hillary Sigei (Bomet), Esther Okenyuri (Nominated), MPs Adan Keynan (Eldas), George Murugara (Tharaka), Mwengi Mutuse (Kibwezi West) and Taita Taveta Woman Representative Lydia Haika.

Azimo picked senators Ledama ole Kina (Narok), Edwin Sifuna (Nairobi), Enoch Wambua (Kitui), MPs Millie Odhiambo (Suba North), David Pkosing (Pokot South), Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) and Amina Mnyazi (Malindi).

The 14-member ad-hoc team will be expected to set the ground rules of the talks whose outcome will be tabled in Parliament within 90 days.