William Ruto plays tough as Azimio set to resume weekly public meetings

Kenya Kwanza leaders led Majority leader Kimani Ichungwa address the media over Azimio's declaration on Mass Action. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

The bipartisan talks that are supposed to find solutions to the current political impasse facing the country got off to a stormy start.

Minutes after the Kenya Kwanza team held their Parliamentary Group meeting at State House in Nairobi, the MPs addressed the press talking tough saying there is only one issue to be discussed: Appointment of IEBC commissioners. Nothing else, they said.

Shortly after the pronouncement, ODM deputy party leader and chairman of the Azimio Executive Council Wycliffe Oparanya issued a statement saying they are resuming public engagements, a precursor to the mass action, with the first one to be held in Nairobi tomorrow.

Oparanya also announced the Azimio team to the talks will be led by Senior Counsel Otiende Amollo and will focus on four issues: Cost of living, auditing IEBC servers, respect of multipartism - a euphemisms for stopping the ruling party from engage opposition MPs - and an inclusive process in public appointments.

Speaking after the Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group meeting, the leaders took a hardline stance against what they termed "blackmail and intimidation" by the opposition to implement failed policies of the previous regime.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wa reiterated that the bipartisan talks would only be centered on the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) selection panel, which he insisted- must be done within the law.

"They (Azimio) are asking us to open the IEBC election servers but this Parliamentary Group has asserted that we have no key to any servers other than key to open the economic servers to reinstate it to where it ought to be," said Ichung'wa.

"That matter was well addressed by the Supreme Court and the opposition is within its rights to seek a review within the law by the Supreme Court," he added.

Last week, Azimio leader Raila and co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Martha Karua (Narc Kenya) issued four irreducible minimums that they insisted should guide the bipartisan talks. They warned that if President William Ruto does not yield to their demands they would mobilize their supporters back to the streets for anti-government protests.

Whereas reinstatement of the four IEBC commissioners who differed with the chairman on the result was a demand their press statement yesterday did not have it as an item for consideration.

In the press release yesterday, Oparanya said it was paramount they meet the people to explain what is going on.

"The purpose of the town hall meetings and public barazas is to enable the party to explain to the people where we are and the upcoming course of action following the suspension of protests," he said.

Oparanya reiterated that the coalition was keen on engaging with the Kenya Kwanza regime.

"Azimio remains committed to the spirit of the Easter deal that saw the two parties commit to dialogue and call on Kenya Kwanza to come to the table with clean hands, unclenched fists, and a commitment to an honest and transparent process," read the statement in part.

Yesterday, Ichungwa emphasised the legislators had resolved to address the cost of living by subsidising production rather than consumption and prudent fiscal management within a framework of managed debt levels.

"...the subsidy program that they (Azimio) are trying to blackmail the government to reinstate were programmes that were designed to loot billions of shillings from the Kenyan people. We shall support the government's policy to subsidise production to avail cheaper food," he said.

The Kenya Kwanza Alliance PG meeting named a seven-member team to the bipartisan talks with Azimio.

The ruling coalition picked Senators Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Hillary Sigei (Bomet), Esther Okenyuri (Nominated), MPs George Murugara (Tharaka), Mwengi Mutuse (Kibwezi West), Adan Keynan (Eldas) and Taita Taveta Woman Representative Lydia Haika.

"In re-affirming our commitment to the dictates of the Constitution and rule of law, the PG directs the team nominated for this bipartisan process to strictly adhere to established laws in addressing the re-constitution of the IEBC panel, as was communicated by the President, on Sunday 2nd April 2023," Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot said.

The choice of leaders to steer the negotiations on behalf of the Kenya Kwanza faction, however, seemed to irk those in the Azimio fold.

""We are totally surprised and stunned by the fact that they have appointed Hon Adan Keynan who is a member of the Azimio la Umoja Coalition... The idea of killing political parties is one of the issues that we would like to address in the bipartisan committee," said National Assembly minority leader Opiyo Wandayi.

Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina tweeted, "The lack of seriousness of the by-partisan deliberation on the KK part is the straw that broke the camel's back! We are back to the people."

The Kenya Kwanza team will engage their Azimio counterparts picked on April 6, 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 names were tabled before Parliament yesterday and adopted for formation of an ad-hoc committee.

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