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Raila-Ruto talks waste of time, Kioni claims as Karua warns of protests

Dialogue talks Committee Members led by  National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, Nyamira Senator Okongo Omogeni, Bungoma Woman Representative Catherine Wabilianga, Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa, Embu Governor Cecil Mbarire and EALA MP Hassan Omar at Bomas of Kenya on August 21, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The much-hyped national dialogue, which has been hailed as Kenya’s silver bullet to end the country’s political and economic woes, has lost its luster to some politicians who are already talking of going back to the streets for demonstrations.

Others are viewing it as a wooden rocking chair that has been keeping Kenyans at ease but will take them nowhere.

To Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni, nothing substantial will be born by the talks.

Speaking to The Sunday Standard, Kioni, who is the team leader for the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya technical team in the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco), alleged that all the proposals submitted by different stakeholders, including the Opposition, in the three-month hearings, have been trashed by the Kenya kwanza side.

“The intensive three months’ process has been a waste of time. The Kenya Kwanza regime has never shown any commitment and good faith in the dialogue,” said Kioni.

Part of the technical panel’s roles in Nadco included harmonising a raft of proposals after submissions before the committee can make recommendations for implementation in their report to the two principals, President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga, and Parliament but Kioni believes the process was merely meant to manage the Opposition and to get legitimacy outside the country especially when the country has visitors.

“Kenya Kwanza’s interest in talks has always been to hold the country in a waiting mood, to get legitimacy from abroad and create a picture that all is well in the country and this has been the case especially when King Charles III was in Kenya and during the climate summit,” Kioni added.

Part of the Azimio’s demands that Kioni said were trashed by Kenya Kwanza include addressing the high cost of living, ensuring fidelity to multiparty democracy and tackling the bloated wage bill.

“Any time we demand that the issues be addressed, their side (government) always lecture us about the long term interventions that they say will take effect after three years while we maintain that issues require immediate interventions,” he said.

Kioni said he has always maintained that lowering the cost of fuel, electricity and food does not require laws or constitutional amendments but policy and administrative action.

According to Kioni, the government’s failure to show commitment was evident that even while the dialogue was underway, the government went ahead to pass the controversial Finance Act, reduce capitation for students and continued to mutilate multi-party democracy.

“While we were at the Bomas busy with the talks, the National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula unilaterally declared Jubilee a parliamentary party and came up with his one set of party leadership which is not part of his job description,” decried Kioni.

He added that as a demonstration of no commitment to the dialogue and despite approval of Sh106 million, Nadco members were asked to spend their own funds and keep receipts for purposes of seeking refunds after the process ends.

“To date we meet our own costs whenever we meet including the retreats and are told that we need to keep safe the receipts for the refund. It is contempt for the talks and lack of interest thereof,” Kioni said.

On Kenya Kwanza’s agenda, Kioni noted that all their proposals were those picked from the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which they are pushing “through the back door.”

He said some of the proposals that have been agreed upon by both sides include implementation of the 2/3 gender rule, embedment of the Prime Cabinet Secretary position to the constitution, undertaking electoral boundary review and the establishment of the office of the Official Opposition Leader as proposed by Kenya Kwanza.

US Senator Chris Coons tried to broker a deal for Raila-Ruto talks.

“These are the same proposals contained in the BBI-initiated Constitution Amendment Bill that was quashed by the Supreme Court but needless to say unlike the BBI report, their proposals have nothing to do with the one man one vote one shilling,” he said.

Kioni alleged that the Kenya Kwanza administration has used the dialogue to pursue their interests, claiming their intention would end up amending the Constitution through Parliament instead of through amendment of the Constitution.

“In the very unlikely event that we have a report coming by November 26, the deadline for the committee and given that Parliament will have gone on recess by that time for three months, this means that they can only discuss it by May next year and by that time a hungry person will have been died and been buried,” said Kioni.

Asked whether he had registered his dissatisfaction to Raila and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, the co-chairperson of Nadco, Kioni said he had cautioned the latter but to Raila, he had given him the benefit of doubt owing to his political experience.

“I have severally cautioned Kalonzo over the dialogue and even prevailed upon him to lay bare our interim measures but he exuded confidence with the team. For Raila, he is an experienced politician. He may be knowing something we don’t know and keeping his many cards close to his chest,” he said.

But he contended that politics after the lapse of Nadco’s mandate will never be the same again both within Azimio and the Kenya Kwanza government, saying is likely to open a new political background for the country.

 Kioni also claimed Kenya Kwanza is using the talks to slow down Azimio’s political momentum ahead of the 2027 elections and led some of its leaders have wild imaginations about crafting crafting political alliances.

“Some of our members, thanks to the talks, think they can establish political formations ahead of 2027 and ditch our camp. Government has also tried dividing us by inviting us to different State functions in the name of the continuing dialogue and we must be very careful due to the optics we are sending to our followers,’ he said.

While Raila attended the State Banquet in honour of King Charles III at State House, Kalonzo attended the National Assembly State of the Nation Address address by President Ruto.

“The disintegration of Azimio in any manner or shape will be the greatest disservice to Kenyans. Many of us must be required to shelve our ambitions for the sake of rescuing our country from the Kenya Kwanza regime,” Kioni said.

Kioni’s views come at a time when Nadco has halted the process following differences on the high cost of living.

But Ichungw’ah said they have agreed on a number of issues, noting they only sought time out to agree on the minor issues that remained contentious.

“We have made quite some good progress not just on the issue of the high cost of living but on the five agenda issues and other agendas that Kenyans have raised,” he said.

He added that there were proposals that touched on taxation and the housing fund and it is those issues that they wanted to engage the National Treasury further before making final determination.

Ichungw’ah explained that some of the proposals to tackle the high cost of living in the immediate and medium term have reaching consequences requiring administrative and legislative policy framework.

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua has threatened a fresh round of countrywide protests should its demands not be met.

Raila, on his part, suggested that the ongoing bipartisan talks will collapse if the government does not adopt their proposed tax measures.

“There are issues that are the bare minimum to us, such as reforms at IEBC. What is important is for the cost of living to come down. They have said what is possible. But we have said the 16% VAT imposed on fuel will be reduced to 8%, and if they refuse to heed to our demands, then there will be no talks,” Raila said.

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said: “We do not want to preempt the outcome of the dialogue. The team should be given space to play its role without undue pressure. Members of the committee are equal to the task at hand.”

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