Ruto, Raila bipartisan teams to resume talks amid tension

Team to tackle terms of reference, parliamentary route or not, cost of living and Cherera 4.

Piece by: Luke Awich

• The bipartisan team resumes talks on Friday after agreeing on membership of the committee. Raila wants more issues discussed.

• Raila met his side of negotiators on Thursday ahead of the talks.

President William Ruto and Raila Odinga

The peace talks between President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga faces fresh headwinds days after the two sides hammered out a deal on the membership of the team.

The joint Committee co-chaired by MPs George Murugara (Tharaka) and Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) is in a delicate balancing act as try to iron out a number of contentious issues that could mean another stalemate, or not.

The team is yet to iron out the terms of reference and whether the talks will be Parliamentary or extra-Parliamentary as  Azimio seeks.

While Kenya Kwanza wants talks centred on hiring of IEBC chiefs and how to strengthen the electoral process, Azimio insists the talks must be expanded to the cost of living and reinstatement of the Cherera-four former IEBC Commissioners.

These will be the issues expected on the table on Friday when the bipartisan team resumes sittings following suspension of the talks last month.

Invitations on Thursday had been sent to the members inviting them to the make or break meeting.

“Good Afternoon, Hon Members of the team. We have consulted with co-chair Hon Murugara and agreed to resume engagement tomorrow Friday, May 5, starting at 10am. Thanks,” read the invite signed by co-chair Otiende.

On Wednesday, the two sides reluctantly agreed on the composition of the 14-member panel that will handle the talks. Now the team's immediate assignment would be to chart the path for the high-level negotiations.

While President William Ruto's camp has insisted the talks will have to follow a parliamentary route and vote, the Azimio side wants an extra-parliamentary platform that will see deliberations held outside the bicameral House.

This is the stickiest issue that preliminary meetings must settle to avoid  another stalemate.

Should the two sides fail to agree on how to navigate the issues, the opposition declared it will not hesitate from rallying their supporters back to the streets.

“We will not hesitate to resort to alternative measures at the slightest indication of lack of good will and honesty on Kenya Kwanza side,  Azimio said in a statement on Thursday.

"If, through intransigence, delaying tactics and other aspects of stonewalling, Kenya Kwanza forces us to abandon the talks, there shall be no turning back. Kenya Kwanza must get us clear on this.” 

Yesterday, the Azimio team was adamant on talks outside Parliament insisting that is the only route to ensure the talks will be as inclusive as possible.

Speaking after a meeting with Azimio negotiators, the principals led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga instructed their team not to bend on having dialogue outside the House rules.

“We still believe the talks cannot be driven entirely and exclusively through a parliamentary process. There must be an avenue to be inclusive and allow for the participation of players from outside Parliament in the talks,” DAPK Party leader Eugene Wamalwa said on Thursday. He read the statement.

“Such a structure, in our view, will create an avenue for the inclusion of other outstanding constitutional issues to be canvassed in the talks. We have instructed our delegates to raise this.”

The Raila camp at the same time made it clear they are not interested in any power-sharing deal. They dismissed claims by a group of Kenya Kwanza MPs that they (Azimio) want to join the government through the backdoor.

“We wish to make it absolutely clear that we are not interested in power sharing with Kenya Kwanza. In fact, our position remains that Kenya Kwanza is an illegitimate regime that is in power through a civilian coup,” Wamalwa said.

“We have instructed our team to make this clear. We are not interested in any deals other than open public talks on issues we have made public. We have also instructed our delegates to make it clear that we want these talks concluded in 30 days from the date of commencement.”

Going into the talks, the ODM boss has also reiterated directives to his team including unconditional release of all youths arrested during the Tuesday’s demonstrations.

Azimio also wants the state to intervene and reduce the cost of basic commodities and services including food, fuel, electricity and school fees.

“We want the subsidies that were scrapped to be restored so that unga can go back to retailing at Sh100 or less,” the former Defence CS stated.

Meanwhile, the opposition coalition maintained it will continue with public engagements through town hall meetings.

The talks last month hit a snag after the 14-member team sharply disagreed on the inclusion of Eldas MP Adan Keynan, a member of Azimio, as one of the Kenya Kwanza administrators.

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