Inside Politics

Raila and Kalonzo dilemma over dialogue team’s report

Monday, December 11th, 2023 01:30 | By
Raila and Kalonzo dilemma over dialogue team’s report
Opposition leader Raila Odinga (centre) joins Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku (right) and Kajiado East MP Kakuta Maimai in a dance at Merrueshi village on Saturday. PHOTO/Christine Musa

Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his allies have found themselves in a quandary over the National Dialogue Committee’s report.

Raila and his ally, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, are facing a dilemma whether to accept or reject the report that their team fully participated in formulating.

Should Raila adopt the report that he has said failed to address the issue of cost of living, the ODM leader risks being described as a traitor by his supporters whom he had early this year marshalled to participate in street protests to push the government to reduce prices of essential commodities.

On the other hand, sources confided in People Daily, Raila finds himself in a dilemma whether to reject the very report of a committee on which Kalonzo served as co-chair.

Some of the opposition chief’s allies have been blowing hot and cold over the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) report, leaving their supporters in a state of confusion.

Tricky situation

According to political analyst Javan Bigambo, Azimio politicians appear to have been caught flat footed by President William Ruto’s side with the successful conclusion of the talks.

“They seem to have been disarmed when NADCO talks went on without any interruption. They had anticipated the talks to collapse midway so that they could go back to the streets. But now, they find themselves without a common stand on the way forward,” says Bigambo.

Bigambo says the Azimio team is now trying to use calls for a national referendum knowing very well that President Ruto  would not accept it as it would be a replay of the 2005 when President Mwai Kibaki was defeated by the Orange movement led by Raila.

“Raila finds himself in a tricky situation because it would be difficult for him to reject the document that came out of the talks that he pushed for. On the other hand, adopting the report that has not addressed the cost of living would appear like a betrayal of his supporters,” says Bigambo.

Already, two of Raila’s allies in the Azimio la Umoja Coalition, Martha Karua (Narc-Kenya) and Eugene Wamalwa, have rejected the report, describing it as “a fraud and falling short of addressing the issues that had forced Kenyans into the streets.”

Karua has criticised the report for failing to address the high cost of living, electoral justice and respect for multiparty democracy.

She insists that any agreement not addressing these issues should be rejected as a deception to the public.

“This is horrendous, especially considering the unprecedented high levels of unemployment in the country. Instead of ensuring an enabling environment for businesses to facilitate the creation of jobs, Ruto keeps promising Kenyans jobs in other jurisdictions in an attempt to justify his insatiable appetite for travel in an economy that is on the precipice of collapse.”

Karua has also demanded that the IEBC reconstitution process be halted by up to 60 days, allowing both coalitions to reach a consensus without the involvement of Parliament.

Though Karua’s disapproval of the NADCO report hints at potential fallout in the Opposition, she insists that she is in Azimio to stay.

Wamalwa and Jeremiah Kioni (Jubilee Party) have also distanced themselves from the report.

In an interview with People Daily yesterday, Wamalwa said he did not sign the report as it did not address important issues affecting Kenyans.

“I didn’t and will not append my signature to the NADCO report and have not and will not accept any sitting allowance for the same because I believe we did not do justice to the single most important issue to Kenyans – the cost of living,” he said.

Fundamental issues

But addressing a press conference two weeks ago, Raila said he would go back to his supporters to ask for their views on the way forward.

The Opposition chief, who has been giving hints of making another stab at the presidency in 2027, said he would seek other ways, that would include consultations with the people, to press the government to lower the cost of living.

“At all times, we will retain the right to call on the people to take steps that we deem necessary to force the government to lower the cost of living,” he told a press conference.

Azimio called off street demonstrations to give the NADCO talks a chance.

The mandate of the committee was to facilitate dialogue and consensus building and recommend appropriate constitutional, legal and policy reforms on issues of concern to the people.

Raila said Azimio was disappointed that the committee was not able to agree on the one fundamental issue on which Kenyans are united – the high cost of living.

“This is why we have described the document the Committee presented as imperfect and unfinished,” he said.

Raila said Kenya Kwanza had insisted that the only issues it was ready to discuss were the reconstitution of the IEBC, implementation of the two-thirds gender rule, entrenchment of Constituency Development Fund, establishment and the entrenchment of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and embedment of the Office of Prime Cabinet Secretary.

Betray supporters

According to Prof Macharia Munene, a lecturer in History and International Relations, Raila is likely to take a position that would best suit his interests in 2027.

“First and foremost, Raila will play politics. He is going to look at the best option that suits his interests. I would be surprised if he rejects the report and decides to go back to the streets,” says Macharia.

Macharia says Raila seems to have trained his eyes on the presidency and as such, NADCO reports appears to have slighted him by creating the position of Leader of Opposition for him.

He adds that Raila is likely to reject the report in order to be seen to be riding in the same boat with his supporters on the cost of living.

“This is the route that he is likely to take because he doesn’t want to be seen to have betrayed his supporters on the cost of living. He is also fully aware that majority of Kenyans feel betrayed by this government on that issue,” Macharia says.

He warns that Raila and his team must tread carefully on the report lest he loses the trust and confidence of his supporters who may form the impression that they were only interested in having positions created for them.

But the Leader of Minority in the National Assembly Opiyo Wandayi, a close ally of Raila, says the Azimio Coalition Parliamentary Group had already agreed to adopt the report.

“The official position is that we have agreed to adopt the report. Just ignore other voices you have been hearing casting doubt over the report,” said Wandayi.

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