The National Dialogue Committee has made little progress in tackling the issues raised by Kenya Kwanza and Azimio since the talks began. Two weeks have elapsed since the committee signed it’s framework of agreement, but it is still at the preliminary stages.
The National Dialogue Committee is yet to delve into the pressing matters that have been raised, including reconstituting the electoral body, looking into cost of living and audit of last year’s elections.
The committee, which has sixty days to finalise it’s work, took a break last week to allow public participation and to allow members to attend the African Climate Summit 2023 that ended in Nairobi on Friday.
Yesterday, the committee’s technical team said it had received 142 memorandum submissions from the public.
The public’s input is expected to enrich the talks particularly on thematic areas that might have been missed by the Kenya Kwanza side (government) and opposition.
“We also received memorandums from various organisations that have been keenly following the progress of the bipartisan talks,” said the co-chairperson of the committee, Kalonzo Musyoka.
Kalonzo’s co-chair and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah was missing at yesterday’s session. Embu Governor and vice chair at the talks Cecil Mbarire held fort.
After receiving the memorandums, the technical committee has one week to go through them and give a report to the dialogue team that is co-chaired by Kalonzo and Ichung’wah.
“We will resume the talks next week on Monday and are giving the technical committee time to go through the memorandums and harmonise them before we meet for next week’s session,” said Kalonzo.
“When we meet on Monday, it will be serious engagement. We are aware of the time limit,” added Kalonzo. “We will be coming back here on Monday to receive the reports of the various memorandum and be able to make a decision on the way forward,” said Mbarire.
Adding to its sluggish progress, a wave of dissent for the talks blows from high government officials like Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who has continued to discredit the process and blamed Azimio leader Raila Odinga for lack of goodwill.
During his visit to Kericho County last week, Gachagua criticised Raila for expelling ODM lawmakers who are working with Ruto’s government. The DP said the decision portrays Raila’s inability to be a democratic leader fit to engage with the government.
The DP told mourners at the funeral of the son of Kipkelion East MP Joseph Cherorot, that he has directed Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot and Ichung’wah to prioritize delivering services to Kenyan citizens as opposed to involvement in the Bomas talks. Yesterday, Ichung’wah was missing from the talks. This was not the first time he had skipped the talks.
“These people hurt us and hurt our president and now they say they want to sit down and talk. He (Raila) goes and tells the Tanzanian president to ask the president to sit with him and talk. He tells Obasanjo to talk to the president for a sit-down. When the president sits with ODM MPs, he expels them. Is he genuine?” posed Gachagua.
Yesterday, Gatanga MP and UDA Secretary for legal affairs Edward Muriu poured cold water on the talks saying:
“Nothing will come out of the talks, we are just managing Mzee and hence low pace. They first need to have internal dialogue, how can they expel their members yet they want to have dialogue with us?”
A UDA MP who did not wish to be named told The Standard: “When the president keeps saying he has dealt with Raila and that his next destination is Bondo, he basically means that he will use dialogue as a bait to technically deal with him politically as he embarks on a charm offensive mission to hunt Nyanza MPs.”
“The strategy is working by hoodwinking Raila that we are in talks while in the actual sense we are buying time,” said the MP.
Raila recently urged the Kenya Kwanza administration to approach the ongoing discussions with the same level of seriousness that characterised the Africa Climate Summit.
In response to Gachagua, he affirmed his coalition’s unwavering dedication to the negotiations, expressing optimism about their prospects for success.
“We are fully prepared for these discussions, and I want to avoid making any statements that could undermine their progress. Let us allow the talks to proceed,” said Raila.
Kirinyaga Woman Representative Njeri Maina said it is unfortunate that the country is fixated on ‘talks’ one year after a free, fair and credible election.
“The basic tenet of democracy the world over is that minority have their say; while majority have their way. I’m quite skeptical of the talks yielding anything progressive for the common Kenyan, but that is to be seen,” She said an added “What worries me is the precedent we are setting, that of encouraging election losers to feel entitled to a duly elected government,” said the woman rep.
After a week of reviewing the public’s submissions, the committee will be left with around forty days to complete the talks as mandated by law.
The committee is expected to address several key issues, including auditing the 2022 presidential election, restructuring IEBC, looking into the cost of living, establishing State Offices including the office of the leader of opposition, preventing political interference, and implementing the two-thirds gender rule.
The committee has also received calls to include a fresh issue after twenty six MPs said they will be filing submissions for creation of eleven new counties.
However, if things unravel at the current speed, it is almost certain that Kenyans will be waiting even longer to have social and political issues settled through the second round of talks between the government side and the opposition.