Bridg­ing the gap

Re­li­gious lead­ers, diplo­mats and other stake­hold­ers are work­ing be­hind the scenes to end po­lit­i­cal im­passe

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - BY PA­TRICK LANG’AT @Pato­suge palan­gat@ke.na­tion­media.com

As Kenyans await the Supreme Court hear­ing of the pe­ti­tions against Uhuru’s vic­tory at the re­peat elec­tions, the rul­ing Ju­bilee coali­tion and ri­vals Nasa seem to be in agree­ment on three cru­cial points: That Kenya needs di­a­logue There’s need for a more in­clu­sive gov­ern­ment The 2010 Con­sti­tu­tion is ripe for re­view

The two pro­tag­o­nists in Kenya’s po­lit­i­cal cri­sis both agree on the need for di­a­logue but there are still sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences on what the agenda of the en­gage­ment should be.

Re­li­gious lead­ers, diplo­mats and other stake­hold­ers have been work­ing be­hind the scenes to bring Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta and his chal­lenger Raila Odinga to the ne­go­ti­a­tions table.

A source within the diplo­matic corps told the Satur­day Na­tion that the ef­forts had some­what cooled off pend­ing the de­ci­sion of the Supreme Court on the Oc­to­ber 26 re­peat pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The Supreme Court or­dered the fresh elec­tion af­ter it nul­li­fied the Au­gust 8 one, cit­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and il­le­gal­i­ties.

How­ever, Mr Odinga pulled out of the race, ar­gu­ing that the re­forms he had called for to level the field had not hap­pened. The Nasa leader is push­ing for an in­terim gov­ern­ment to carry out the re­forms and hold an­other elec­tion af­ter six months ir­re­spec­tive of the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion on the pe­ti­tions against the re­sult.

All stake­hold­ers agree that the two sides must talk re­gard­less of what Chief Jus­tice David Maraga and his col­leagues de­cide.

The diplo­matic source said both Nasa and Ju­bilee were will­ing to en­gage but the Pres­i­dent’s side is wait­ing for a de­ci­sion of the Supreme Court be­fore it makes up its mind on how to pro­ceed and the agenda.

‘‘For Ju­bilee, be­ing in power and not be­ing con­tested (in case Supreme Court doesn’t nul­lify again) is cer­tainly the sine qua non ( the most ba­sic con­di­tion). It seems that un­der cer­tain con­di­tions, Nasa might drop their de­mand for an­other elec­tion, but they want to dis­cuss re­forms,’’ said the of­fi­cial who works in a key Euro­pean Union em­bassy and who has been in­volved in the me­di­a­tion ef­forts.

On Thurs­day, Catholic bish­ops said they will convene a Na­tional Di­a­logue Fo­rum to ad­dress long-term is­sues of gover­nance, trans­parency, poverty, un­em­ploy­ment, eco­nomic in­equal­ity, con­flict res­o­lu­tion, in­jus­tices and ac­count­abil­ity.

“Ir­re­spec­tive of the out­come of the Supreme Court de­ci­sion on the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion peti- tion and any po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, we are con­vinced this di­a­logue is nec­es­sary. It is ev­i­dent and we must agree that there are un­der­ly­ing prob­lems that only resur­face dur­ing elec­tions. To deal with our prob­lems, we must di­a­logue,” the bish­ops said in a state­ment in Nakuru on Thurs­day.

Sim­i­larly, 15 Angli­can bish­ops from Western Kenya led by Butere’s Rev Tim Wam­bunya asked politi­cians to shun in­flam­ma­tory state­ments and em­brace di­a­logue.

Pres­i­dent Keny­atta’s Ju­bilee Party has in re­cent weeks soft­ened its stance on di­a­logue over an ex­panded ex­ec­u­tive and a more in­clu­sive gov­ern­ment, but in­sisted that it should only hap­pen af­ter the swear­ing-in.

In­flu­en­tial mem­bers of the rul­ing party told the Satur­day Na­tion yes­ter­day that while they are open to the di­a­logue the Op­po­si­tion has in­sisted needs to hap­pen, it would have to await the de­ci­sion of the Supreme Court within the next 10 days.

Al­though he sup­ports calls for talks on an all-in­clu­sive gov­ern­ment, Ju­bilee Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Raphael Tuju said that those ef­forts ‘‘should not re­volve around re­ward­ing a few peo­ple.’’

“Yes, the coun­try must be in­volved in con­stant di­a­logue. But it can­not be premised on Raila Odinga lead­ing. Di­a­logue as de­fined by Mr Odinga is where he is the boss, sit­ting on ev­ery­body. And that, we will not ac­cept,” said Mr Tuju.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Tuju, Pres­i­dent Keny­atta had tried to make his gov­ern­ment as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble.

“Which part of the coun­try does not have griev­ances? Ev­ery­one does. We need to have a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion to bring unity to a coun­try that was di­vided dur­ing colonial days, but that con­ver­sa­tion can­not be premised on one man lead­ing it,” he said.

The Ju­bilee Party of­fi­cial’s stand came even as the Odinga-led Na­tional Su­per Al­liance in­sisted that even af­ter the Supreme Court makes a rul­ing on the pe­ti­tions against Pres­i­dent Keny­atta’s sec­ond term, Kenya’s pro­tracted elec­tion dis­pute is far from over.

Mr Odinga — who suc­cess­fully pe­ti­tioned Pres­i­dent Keny­atta’s Au­gust poll win and then aban­doned a re­peat ex­er­cise protest­ing lack of elec­toral re­forms — has called for the for­ma­tion of a six-month in­terim gov­ern­ment be­fore a cred­i­ble elec­tion or­gan­ised by a new elec­toral com­mis­sion.

The coali­tion has called for the for­ma­tion of a Peo­ple’s Assem­bly to push for re­forms un­der an in­terim gov­ern­ment and pave way for new elec­tions in six months, a sug­ges­tion Ju­bilee has dis­missed.

“We must slay the dragon of elec­tion theft that rears its ugly head ev­ery elec­tion cy­cle, be­fore we can ad­dress other gover­nance prob­lems,” said Ugunja MP Opiyo Wan­dayi, who is al­lied to Mr Odinga.

On pro­posed talks, Mr Wan­dayi said: “The dragon of elec­tion theft can­not be slayed by cos­metic di­a­logue. We have seen the ef­forts of the church and other groups. But we are not in a hurry to en­gage in talks just for the sake of talks.”

But while Nasa ar­gues that the way for­ward for Kenya was in a cred­i­ble re­peat elec­tion out­side that which might be or­dered by the Supreme Court for a sec­ond time, the Ju­bilee Party says they were only open to talks on the struc­ture of gov­ern­ment and elec­tions, but within the law.

“What we have is not a le­gal prob­lem. It is a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, but which can only be ad­dressed within the law. You can­not aban­don the le­gal process half­way, and start invit­ing a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion,” said Se­nate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki.

Sim­i­larly, Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Justin Mu­turi, who re­fused to be drawn into what ex­actly such a so­lu­tion of the cri­sis should en­tail, said he was open to any talks be­tween the two par­ties.

“Par­lia­ments the world over fa­cil­i­tate di­a­logue for the good of the peo­ple. The Kenyan Par­lia­ment is equally will­ing to fa­cil­i­tate the process which must be within the con­fines of the Con­sti­tu­tion and the law. We need to have some­thing that is struc­tured so that we know what we are dis­cussing,” Mr Mu­turi said.

“The Con­sti­tu­tion al­lows for pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion and, as Par­lia­ment, we can frame all the is­sues raised and seek so­lu­tions. But I will not be party to Ufunga­mano style of do­ing things or Uhuru Park kind of dec­la­ra­tions.”

Prof Kindiki, who had ear­lier pro­posed the for­ma­tion of the post of a prime min­is­ter and two deputies, yes­ter­day stuck to his pro­posal, say­ing it was the only way to try and please a ma­jor­ity of the com­mu­ni­ties in Kenya.

“I fore­see us relook­ing at the Con­sti­tu­tion be­fore the next Gen­eral Elec­tion. There is an in­creas­ing re­al­i­sa­tion that in a plu­ral so­ci­ety like ours, where pol­i­tics is seen as an in­di­ca­tor of in­clu­siv­ity or lack thereof, you need a slightly broader ex­ec­u­tive for per­cep­tions of in­clu­siv­ity,” said the Tharaka Nithi se­na­tor.

Al­ready, the Na­tional Coun­cil of Churches of Kenya has put forth the prime min­is­ter pro­posal terming it as part of what they called an ex­panded gov­ern­ment.

And like Prof Kindiki, the church warned that such a per­son should only be ap­pointed by the pres­i­dent to avoid a dif­fer­ent fac­tion of power and should come un­der the Deputy Pres­i­dent in rank.

“Such a prime min­is­ter and the two deputies should be ac­com­mo­dated with­out ex­ceed­ing the con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment of 22 peo­ple in the Cab­i­net. That way, we do not bloat the wage bill and we ac­com­mo­date other groups,” said Prof Kindiki.

But for that to hap­pen, he said, the coun­try must divorce it­self from the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal play­ers, propos­ing that it should be closed for those who have held such po­si­tions be­fore.

FILE | NA­TION

Nasa leader Raila Odinga and Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta dur­ing a past event.

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