Kenya’s Political Dialogue Faces International Scrutiny Amidst Opposition Criticism
As Kenya’s political landscape continues to evolve, the ongoing talks between the Azimio La Umoja and Kenya Kwanza coalitions have garnered attention both domestically and internationally. The discussions, aimed at finding common ground on critical national issues, have been marked by both optimism and skepticism.
US Senator’s Involvement Raises Eyebrows
Recent developments have thrust the talks into the global spotlight, with the meeting between Azimio leader Raila Odinga and US Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. Coons, known for his role in facilitating the historic 2018 Handshake deal between former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Odinga, has returned to Kenya. The closed-door meeting, held in Kisumu County just one day before Bi-partisan Talks began, has ignited speculation about whether Coons is here to broker a truce or initiate a new power-sharing agreement.
Despite the controversy surrounding Coons’ involvement, both sides remain committed to the dialogue process. Azimio La Umoja coalition, led by Raila Odinga, has urged Kenya Kwanza Alliance to refrain from engaging in divisive rhetoric that could undermine the talks.
“We appeal to Kenya Kwanza that vitriol must now end because it won’t work. Propaganda must now end because it has not solved our problems this past year and it won’t, in the coming year,” stated Odinga during a recent press conference.
Internal Disagreements Pose Challenges
While both coalitions have appointed members to the dialogue team, internal disagreements within Azimio La Umoja have raised concerns. The absence of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, believed to have brokered the truce, during the initial meetings between the two sides has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the process. Despite this, National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi has confirmed Obasanjo’s leadership in the talks.
“We, the leadership of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, having consulted with the leadership of Kenya Kwanza under the facilitation of Olusegun Obasanjo on the state of our nation, desirous of a democratic and peaceful resolution of issues that beset our nation,” a letter by Opiyo Wandati to media read in part.
However, Kenya Kwanza seemed to differ with Azimio La Umoja’s display of dependency on Mr. Obasanjo with National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa, who is also the leader of Kenya Kwanza’s dialogue team, issuing a statement criticising Opiyo’s official statement.
“Honouring the request by former Nigerian President Obasanjo not to be mentioned in any public statement, we regret the lack of decency by Azimio in not respecting this request,” said Ichung’wah in an official statement.
The technical teams from both sides have also encountered their fair share of challenges. The Azimio technical team lamented the lateness of their Kenya Kwanza counterparts during a scheduled meeting at the Bomas of Kenya.
“Azimio Technical Team to the Bipartisan talks already at BOMAS waiting for our KK counterparts. We were supposed to have a joint meeting at 9 am. It is now 9:57 am,” revealed Fred Okang’o of Azimio through Azimio Tv
However, such obstacles are expected in the early stages of negotiations.
Skepticism and Criticism from Within
Not all voices are in favour of the ongoing dialogue. Former Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat has labeled the talks a “waste of time,”
“I was on the Azimio La Umoja team during the elections and sincerely speaking the Ruto camp defeated us squarely” stated Salat in a statement to media
He went on to assert that the United States will not be able to influence President William Ruto’s administration into striking a handshake deal with Raila Odinga. He emphasised that Kenya is on a positive trajectory and cautioned Azimio against efforts to initiate discussions with the Ruto administration.
“To defeat Ruto in the next polls, will be a difficult task because he is a performer,” added the seasoned politician Nick Salat.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei echoed this sentiment, asserting that the United States would not influence Ruto’s administration to engage in a power-sharing agreement.
“Despite the presence of Senator Coons – USA shall NOT in any way influence H.E Dr William Samoei Arap Ruto and Kenya kwanza administration into a handshake/nusu mkate with Tinga/Azimio-OKA. Period!” stated Cherargei on Sunday 13th August 2023 when Right Hon. Raila Odinga met with Senator Coons of Joe Biden’s USA administration.
Cherargei dismissed Odinga’s international engagement as counterproductive, urging Azimio to focus on strategising for the 2027 elections.
Critical Issues at Stake
Despite the challenges and criticisms, the national dialogue continues to center around vital issues affecting Kenya’s political landscape. For Azimio La Umoja, the agenda items include addressing the cost of living, auditing the 2022 election results, reconstituting the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), and safeguarding political parties from interference. The coalition also seeks to tackle outstanding constitutional matters related to governance, checks and balances, and boundary delimitation.
On the other hand, Kenya Kwanza’s priorities include the reconstitution of the IEBC Commission, implementation of the two-thirds gender rule, and the establishment of key government offices.
As the technical teams and negotiating committees work to shape the dialogue, political goodwill remains a critical factor in finding common ground and resolving the nation’s pressing concerns. The success of the dialogue could have a lasting impact on Kenya’s political landscape and its democratic future. The next meeting between the teams is scheduled for Monday, August 21, 2023, and all eyes are on the Bomas of Kenya for further developments.