Trust deficit between the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition and opposition’s Azimio One Kenya Coalition has threatened to derail the planned talks even before they commence to broker a political truce to address biting national challenges including the high cost of living as a condition to end anti-government protests.
Yesterday, Azimio leader Raila Odinga scoffed at claims that his coalition was clamouring to join president William Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza government.
While maintaining that the opposition had no such intentions, Raila said his side had agreed to a dialogue with the ruling coalition in order to address the most pressing issues affecting the country, such as the high cost of living.
Raila spoke yesterday at St. Tiberius Ekerubo Catholic Church in Nyamira county during a church service on Sunday, the ODM leader and leaders accompanying took issue with a section of leaders from Kenya Kwanza who have maintained a hardline position on the impending talks.
“We have not said we want to be in (President William) Ruto’s government. Even those who claim I was in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government are wrong. I didn’t hold any cabinet position. We neither had a Cabinet Secretary nor a Principal Secretary.” Raila observed.
The opposition leader maintained they were ready to engage but vowed to pull out of the talks and prefer the next cause of action if president Ruto’s camp maintain its position.
Raila insisted that the opposition cannot be dismissed by the ruling party and that issues affecting ordinary citizens including cost of basic commodities must be given priority by the current government.
“Kenya belongs to all of us that is why we want to dialogue. When Uhuru was president there were food subsidies. We also had kazi kwa vijana. Even the price of fuel was not as high as now. But these prices have been raised” said the former Prime Minister
On August 5, 2023, Raila issued an ultimatum to president Ruto to ensure the negotiations are completed with 30 days while in Siaya county.
Raila appeared to hint that he will resume the anti-government protests if the planned talks, which were birthed by former Nigeria President Olesegun Obasanjo, fail to be fruitful.
“We are ready for the talks. We will talk to those people. But we have to engage and finish the process with 30 days. If we cannot find a solution, we will issue fresh directions. We have forwarded a strong team led by Kalonzo Musyoka to speak to them.” Raila said.
He also explained that the Azimio team will engage in the talks without conditions.
“We have offered them another chance at the talks and we want to see if they will take them seriously this time.” He noted.
Raila’s remarks come at a time President Ruto’s allies have dismissed the possibility of a political handshake between the two leaders.
Kiharu lawmaker Ndindi Nyoro, while speaking during the President’s trip to Central Kenya, also suggested that the talks between government and opposition will not add value.
“In fact, we should meet at a school in Nairobi, under a tree, and talk, the public should also be able to listen to our talk and witness what is going on.” National Assembly Majority Leader and Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwah said.
Azimio and Kenya Kwanza have unveiled five members for the proposed talks which come on the back of anti-government protests which left scores dead, others injured, and destruction of property worth millions of shillings.
The Azimio’s delegation is led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka with Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi, former Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa, Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni and Malindi MP Amina Mnyanzi as the other members.
The Kenya Kwanza delegation comprises of National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah, Aaron Cheruiyot (Senate Majority Leader), Embu Governor Cecile Mbarire, Hassan Omar (EALA MP) and Bungoma Woman rep Catherine Wambilinga.
The talks will centre around among other the cost of living audit of the 2022 elections and reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commision (IEBC), inclusivity in national matters, and adherence to the Constitution in regards to political parties.