Kenya Kwanza unveils team amid jitters over cost of living as agenda

Majority leader Kimani Ichungwa (3rd left)  addressing the media over bipartisan talks. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Push to revive the stalled bipartisan talks has started in an environment of fear and thinly veiled hostility between the government and the opposition.

Yesterday, the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance named its five-member team that will be led by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa, who had openly opposed talks between President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga that could lead to a power sharing agreement.

At the heart of the talks were efforts played by Tanzania President Samia Suluhu and former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasajo to bring Ruto and Raila to the negotiating table.

Peace talks

Even as Kenya Kwanza readied its team for the peace talks, it fired broadsides at the Azimio leadership accusing them of breaching five issues agreed during the meeting that was chaired by the former Nigerian president. They further stated the cost of living is not part of the an agenda.

In their statement announcing their team Kenya Kwanza said: “Azimio at the very least should have the decency to abide by the five issues agreed at the meeting that was chaired by former Nigerian president.”

Ichungwah revealed that Obasanjo had requested not to be mentioned in any public statement by either parties but Azimio has gone against the same.

“We regret the lack of decency to abide by the five issues agreed on in the meeting and regret the lack of decency by Azimio in not respecting President Obasonjo’s request,” he said.

It was Raila who told the international press how another mediator, President Suluhu had visited Kenya three weeks ago, but was unable to see her host President Ruto, a development that the government has since remained noncommittal even though Ruto last week visited Tanzania and later met the opposition leader.  

In a statement sent to the newsroom, Ichungwah said Kenya Kwanza will focus on the reconstitution to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), implementation of the two thirds gender rule, entrenchment of Constituency Development Fund (CDF), establishment and entrenchment of the office of the leader of the opposition and the embedment of the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary.

The team that will represent Kenya Kwanza in the talks led by the Majority Leader comprises of Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire, Eala MP Hassan Omar and Bungoma Woman Rep Catherine Wambilianga.

The Kenya Kwanza group will hold talks with the Azimio led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, DAP-K leader Eugene Wamalwa, Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni and Malindi MP Amina Mnyazi.

High cost of living

The Majority Leader yesterday was categorical that the high cost of living that largely contributed to the opposition calling for mass action would not form part of the discussions, maintaining that they will stick to the five issues agreed upon.

He reiterated there would be no talk of sharing the government. 

Sabatia MP Clement Sloya said the government was already working to address the high cost of living and will not feature in the peace talks.

He defended the Kenya Kwanza team unveiled to lead negotiations.

 “The cost of living is not part of the five agenda because as you recall the president said that he is the one charged with lowering the same. As for the list, there is no reason for Azimio to dispute the names presented for the talks. They need to understand that Kenya Kwanza as comprised has very many youthful leaders and that the list was arrived at after lengthy conversations,” said Sloya.

National Assembly Minority leader Wandayi declined to comment on the Kenya Kwanza team, signaling that Azimio was still deliberating on whether to proceed with the talks or downgrade its team.

Azimio is calling for lowering of the cost of living, audit of 2022 elections, reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, inclusivity in national affairs and respect for political parties in line with the Constitution.

Azimio promised to respect the demands that will be tabled by Kenya Kwanza and hope the same would be reciprocated.

“Our position remains that no party to these negotiations can claim right to determine for the other what to raise and what not to raise. Azimio will respect Kenya Kwanza right to bring all its issues to the table and we expect Kenya Kwanza to do the same with our issues,” read the statement by Azimio.

With Kenya Kwanza excluding the demands of lowering the cost of living and Azimio maintaining that its part of the core issues to be discussed eyes are on who will cede ground if the talks are to take off.