Inside Politics

Ruto, Raila teams ask Houses to legally protect Bomas talks

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023 05:15 | By
Kalonzo Musyoka
Wiper Party Leader Kalonzo Musyoka. PHOTO/Kenna Claude

The mediation talks between the Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja coalitions got underway yesterday with the negotiating teams holding a nearly three-hour meeting at the Bomas of Kenya to agree on ground rules.

 Though the committee’s joint chairpersons, Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Kimani Ichung’wah and Azimio principal Kalonzo Musyoka declined to address the press at the end of the meeting, they later released a joint statement stating they had tasked the National Assembly and Senate to process a motion to legally establish the dialogue team.

It was not immediately clear whether former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who had earlier voiced his willingness to mediate the talks to end the spate of violence that characterised the mass protests called by the opposition, attended yesterday’s meeting with members of the committee maintaining a studious silence on the closed-door deliberations.

 The move to legally entrench the dialogue team is seen as intended to shield the process from the legal challenges that may arise going forward.

Dialogue team

In the statement, Kalonzo and Ichung’wah asked the leadership of the two Houses to fast-track the passage of the motion to establish the team.

“It was agreed that the parliamentary leadership of both the National Assembly and the Senate will process a motion to legally establish the dialogue team. The National Assembly is in session and the leadership shall process the same this week,” reads part of the statement sent to newsrooms yesterday.

 “The Senate is in recess but the Upper House leadership shall process the same as soon as possible in a special session to be convened,” the statement went on, before announcing that the next meeting will be held on Monday next week starting 10am.

Sources intimated to People Daily that there was a need to protect the process lest it suffers the fate that befell the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in the sunset years of retired President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime.

 Yesterday’s meeting came a day after United States Delaware Senator Christopher Andrew Coons held talks with Azimio leader Raila Odinga in Kisumu over what sources close to the opposition chief said was the need to reach a peaceful settlement to the issues that informed the mass protests.

 Coons is said to be set to hold talks with President William Ruto later this week over the same issue.

 Kalonzo had earlier declared that the talks will purely cater for the interests of Kenyans and not individual or party interests as was witnessed in the previous failed bipartisan talks.

Kenya Kwanza team in the ongoing talks is led by Ichung’wah and comprises Senate Leader of Majority Aaron Cheruiyot and Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire as well as East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) MP Hassan Omar and Bungoma Woman Rep Catherine Wambilianga.

 Kenya Kwanza has listed five agenda items that they intend to discuss with the Azimio coalition, including the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule.

 Other are the establishment of the opposition leader’s official office, the entrenchment of the Constituency Development Fund, and the embedding of the Prime Cabinet Secretary’s office.

Political goodwill

The Azimio la Umoja team on the other hand comprises National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi and DAP party leader Eugene Wamalwa. Others include Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni and Malindi MP Amina Mnyazi.

The dialogue team is, however, yet to establish timelines for the talks and which agenda will be prioritised, with both sides stating that political goodwill will be critical in dealing with the issues at hand.

Azimio had intended to invite members of the diplomatic corps and religious leaders to the talks, but Kenya Kwanza requested that their inclusion be postponed until teething problems are resolved.

 The Kalonzo-Ichung’wa-led dialogue team has also tasked the technical teams to first frame the agenda items for consideration by the dialogue committee and equally review the bi-partisan talks framework agreement to incorporate the negotiating teams resolutions.

“During the meeting, the technical teams were formally constituted and formally co-opted to work with the negotiating team,” read part of the statement.

 Both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio picked four members each with the former having Dr Muthomi Thiankolu, Dr Linda Musumba, Nick Biketi and Dr Duncan Ojwang’ while the latter has appointed Jeremiah Kioni, Prof Adams Oloo, Zein Abubakar and Lynn Ngugi as its members.

Ichung’wah said the technical team will play a key role in backing the government delegation.

“Their expertise will be of high value in shaping the conversation,” he said in a statement.

Azimio on its part stated thus while announcing its technical committee: “The four will work with the Azimio delegation to provide insights, skills, guidance and expertise necessary for a speedy realisation of the objectives of the dialogue.’’

 The Delaware lawmaker is believed to have influenced the decision for the warring parties to agree to bipartisan talks in May when the opposition suspended further protests to pave the way for dialogue.

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