Hold genuine talks without imposing demands

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023 02:15 | By
President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila at a past function. PHOTO/Print
President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila at a past function. PHOTO/Print

The proposed mediation talks between Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance and Kenya Kwanza Alliance must be held strictly within the confines of the Constitution.

Ironically, the talks meant to unlock the political impasse and a national crisis emanating from the last presidential election have run into headwinds even before they have started.

The talks were necessitated after mounting public and international pressure following mass protests against the government’s economic policies.

Other than causing a national uproar, the protests threatened to paralyse the economy and also led to death and destruction amid serious violations of human rights and police brutality.

It is therefore imperative that the proposed talks between the two sides proceed with speed and genuine desire to resolve the national crisis that has engulfed the country, impeding national cohesion and development.

Both Azimio and Kenya Kwanza have tabled their lists of issues to be discussed at the national dialogue mediated by retired Nigerian president and respected African statesman Olusegun Obasanjo. Intervention of the international community in the appointment of Obasanjo who has been involved in major conflict resolution efforts across the continent underscores the weight of the crisis facing the nation .

That is why it is disheartening to hear some members of the proposed dialogue casting aspersions on the opposite side even before the talks have started, while imposing unnecessary modalities. The same attitude and condescending statements led to the collapse of the parliamentary bipartisan talks that majority of Kenyans agreed was not inclusive enough and was lopsided in favour of the ruling coalition.

Genuine fears exist that the Legislature leans towards the Executive through political and other forms of manipulation. However, the composition of the proposed mediated national dialogue has been widely welcomed.

It is, therefore, wrong for Kenya Kwanza representatives to persistently impute that their Azimio counterparts are angling for a “handshake” or a “nusu mkate” (half loaf) which literally means a half share of the government. Such statements by the Kenya Kwanza leadership create a false impression that remains to be the biggest impediment to national healing and reconciliation. They also largely contributed to the collapse of the aborted bipartisan talks. Azimio’s leadership has repeatedly asserted that it is not their wish to share in the legitimately constituted government and are just performing the role that is equally legitimately anchored in the Constitution.

Now that both sides have tabled their list of issues to be discussed, let the national dialogue begin in earnest without the introduction of flimsy partisan arguments that may hamper the crucial discussions at hand.

Legal, public, Opposition, civil society and private sector objections to aspects of the Finance Act, 2023 has raised critical economic justice issues on steep taxation and high cost of living affecting millions of citizens.

While economic justice remains the core issue due to the high cost of living that has adversely affected majority of citizens, it is obvious from the list of issues tabled that electoral justice is also paramount to the deliberations.

Principally, both sides agree on the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which was at the centre of the disputed presidential election.

The mediated dialogue should extensively discuss this matter and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion for both sides because it has perennially been the main reason for the political, economic and social crises bedeviling the nation.

Let the talks begin without any further delay.

 —The writer comments on economic and justice affairs — [email protected]

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