Kenyatta, Odinga polls duel stretches into new year

Sunday December 24 2017

At public events, President Uhuru Kenyatta and

At public events, President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga appear best of friends, but take hardline positions when elections are called. PHOTO FILE | NATION  

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Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga continue with their duel into the New Year, even as they face internal dissent over the just-concluded sharing of positions in parliamentary committees.

Barely a month after the repeat presidential election, which Mr Odinga boycotted, internal dissent has erupted over sharing of key parliamentary positions and the nominees to the East African Legislative Assembly.

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga will be working overtime to quell the dissent ahead of the proposed national dialogue being supported by the international community to heal the country after a protracted electoral process that ended on November 28.

Amani National Congress (ANC) noted that ODM has not reciprocated the support Mr Odinga received when other coalition principals shelved their presidential ambitions to back him as main opposition candidate.

Watchdog committees

“ODM is deliberately cutting deals with Jubilee in parliament to secure seats. This we have seen in the Public Accounts Committee and Public Investment Committee elections,” said ANC spokesman Kibisu Kabatesi.

The PAC and PIC are key watchdog committees, which are traditionally held by the opposition leaders in parliament due to their important role of auditing expenditure and investments to ensure public funds are not lost.

But Nasa Chief Whip Junet Mohamed said the chairmanship of committees is elective and Jubilee could have ganged up against other candidates, which proved tricky for ODM to counter.

However, Mr Mohamed noted that opposition MPs will make decisions collectively to face Jubilee in Parliament and push for reforms the country needs regardless of the committee memberships.

Similar complaints have pervaded Jubilee Party where MPs from Deputy President William Ruto’s backyard have accused Leader of Majority Aden Duale of shortchanging them after some of their colleagues were recalled from their committees.

Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali recalled four MPs from their committees after they “defied” the party position to win elections for the leadership of Environmental, Social Welfare and Agriculture Committees.

Looming duel

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga will be relying on unity within their parties for a looming duel in Parliament where key appointments will be vetted once a new Cabinet is named.

Rivalry between the two leaders is also expected to take centrestage at the international community-backed national dialogue, which will be midwifed in January by the business community, trade unions, civil society and clerics.

Mr Odinga is spoiling for a protracted war with the Kenyatta administration, warning that a lasting solution to electoral mismanagement must be found if Kenyans are to keep faith in future polls.

Mr Odinga’s avowed plan to be sworn in has put the government on high alert. Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai has warned that such a move will attract treason charges, which if proven by court, would see Mr Odinga face the hangman’s noose.

But the Nasa leader has defied warnings by President Kenyatta to drop debate on possible secession as Raila went ahead to launch the People’s Assemblies as the vehicles to lead the crusade for constitutional reforms and secession, in protest against what the opposition terms rigging of elections.

He dared the government to arrest him for treason, saying he was ready to die if that could bring an end to electoral fraud that has been meted out on Kenyans over the past three general elections.

Odinga’s legacy

Mr Odinga is also on the warpath with the international community, mainly America, which has told him to drop the proposed swearing in plan lest he dents his legacy as a democrat.

Mr Odinga has enjoyed the support of the West and US in previous elections, and has held a series of meetings with diplomats in Nairobi to strike a deal with President Kenyatta on post-election conflict.

US ambassador Robert Godec and other Western diplomats have met Mr Odinga both at his residence in the suburbs of Nairobi and in his private offices, which culminated to cancellation of swearing in of Mr Odinga on December 12.

According to sources, the Western diplomats are convinced that Mr Odinga can play a role in reconciliation and reconstruction of the country, which is needed due to protracted and divisive electoral process.

In addition, the diplomats mainly Mr Godec and Germany ambassador to Kenya Jutta Frasch who has also hosted religious and trade unions’ leaders to support calls for dialogue, contend that Mr Odinga has a large following across the country that cannot be ignored.

“We strongly support the proposal by business & religious leaders for a national conversation to openly and transparently address issues of national interest involving all Kenyans,” German embassy in Nairobi said on Twitter last week.

Peoples Assembly

The group’s co-chair Lee Karuri said the caucus will become active early in the year to provide a platform for all Kenyans to discuss issues that were brought up by various players in the electoral process under Vision 2030 framework.

“With the support of the international community, multi-sectoral forum will be constituted in the month of January 2018,” the group said last week.

But in a swift rejoinder, Nasa distanced itself from the proposed dialogue, saying it has already established the People’s Assemblies as the vehicle for national debate with Kenyans directly.

According to Nasa, the agenda of the proposed dialogue does not address their concerns, which is mainly political and socio-economic as the group had suggested.