It is unclear when the bipartisan talks between the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party will commence as a standoff persists between the two camps.
The Standard has established that despite the parties having formed their teams to lead the talks, the ad-hoc committee–as of yesterday- was yet to meet and agree on the house rules as well as set the terms of engagement.
“I call upon Kenyans to be patient and wait for announcements when they are due. There is due process to take place before the negotiation commences formally. I also want to disabuse the expectations of Kenyans that there is going to be a confrontation between the Azimio and Kenya Kwanza sides. Far from it,” said Senate Minority Whip Boni Khalwale. Dr Khwalwale, who doubles up as chair of the seven-member Kenya Kwanza negotiation team, also downplayed the differences in demands by both the Azimio brigade and the President William Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza.
On Tuesday, the Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group insisted that the talks would be centered on the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) selection panel. Azimio is, however, agitating for the immediate lowering of the cost of living and a forensic audit of the IEBC servers used before, during, and after the 2022 presidential election.
They are further calling for reform and reconstitution of the electoral commission as well as 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.
“It is the fact that Azimio’s expectations from the talks are different from ours that has invited the talks. Otherwise, there would be no need for the talks. Let them come with their demands and we ours and everything is put on the table for deliberation,” said Khalwale.
The announcement by Kenya Kwanza on Tuesday that Eldas MP Adan Keynan–a Jubilee MP who shifted camp to Kenya Kwanza–would be part of their negotiating team has also caused disquiet in Parliament.
Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna termed it a “slap in the face”, insinuating the move could stall the talks.
“In gauging Ruto’s seriousness with the so-called bipartisan dialogue, he himself called for three things: The insistence on a purely parliamentary process is a red flag, the inclusion of Hon. Keynan in his team is in absolute bad faith and a slap in the face, and the refusal to do anything to lower the price of unga is a deal-breaker,” Mr Sifuna tweeted.
But Khalwale defended the inclusion of Keynan, saying, “If it is indeed Raila’s opinion that our inclusion of Adan Keynan was wrong, he should be the last to do so because in terms of political nomadism and metamorphosis, he is suspect number one. We have just come from a situation where he played a part in the handshake government that is responsible for our current situation.
“If indeed Keynan is their man, then they are lucky because they will have an extra man who will vote on their behalf and they will have leverage. But denying Keynan an opportunity to contribute in this process just because he belonged to Azimio once upon a time is like denying Raila an opportunity to participate in an issue because of the other shades of opinion he has carried in the past.”
Keynan will serve alongside Khalwale, senators Hillary Sigei (Bomet) and Esther Okenyuri (Nominated), MPs George Murugara (Tharaka), Mwengi Mutuse (Kibwezi West), and Taita Taveta Woman Representative Lydia Haika.
The Kenya Kwanza team will engage their Azimio counterparts picked on April 6. They are senators Ledama ole Kina (Narok), Edwin Sifuna (Nairobi) and Enoch Wambua (Kitui), MPs Millie Odhiambo (Suba North), David Pkosing (Pokot South), Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) and Amina Mnyazi (Malindi).
At the same time, Kenya Kwanza parliamentary group leaders have called on Raila to call off scheduled town hall meetings and public barazas. Azimio is set to hold its first meeting today at Ufungamano House. This will be followed by a rally at Jacaranda Grounds on Sunday.
“I appeal to Raila Odinga to call off the meetings because they can only be necessary if the talks have failed. If his intention is for the talks to be successful, he should halt the engagements. The former prime minister is missing it by a mile by going back to grandstanding and playing to the gallery. This is not the time,” the politicians said.