US President Barack Obama’s administration has urged the opposition to work with the government to avoid the recurrence of violence in the 2017 elections.
The US President’s message was delivered to the opposition by US State Secretary John Kerry during a meeting with some leaders on Monday afternoon at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel, Nairobi.
Mr Kerry flew in to discuss regional security and prepare Kenya’s business summit with the US to be held next month in New York.
He had sent invitations to Cord leader Raila Odinga and his co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula last week.
Also invited to the meeting were Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Narc Kenya counterpart Martha Karua.
Sources close to the meeting said Mr Kerry said President Obama was concerned about the street demonstrations to push out the electoral commission three months ago and wanted negotiated reforms to pave the way for free, fair and peaceful elections in 2017.
“He was clear that the United States wanted free, fair and transparent elections conducted in a peaceful manner. He made it clear that they do not want a recurrence of violence like it was in 2007,” said a source who was close to the meeting.
The US Secretary of State urged the opposition leaders to rally behind a report by the Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms which was debated yesterday in the National Assembly.
He is understood to have argued that the report by the committee held the key to peace and stability after the next elections.
The committee was set up with strong support from the clergy, US ambassador Robert Godec, UK High Commissioner Nic Hailey and Germany’s Jutta Frasch.
“Mr Kerry urged the leaders to support the proposed electoral reforms in the report by the joint select committee. His message was that the report was a product of both political sides and should be supported in full,” said another source.
Mr Kerry was said to have sought commitment from the five leaders on the electoral reforms. He pledged Sh2.5 billion from his government for civic education in the lead up to the next elections.
The US Secretary of State appeared to refer to America’s position during the press conference on Monday when he urged that the electoral differences be resolved amicably.
“Kenya has come a long way since the elections in 2007. It is up to leaders on all sides to ensure that violence that took place in the aftermath of that election is never repeated,” he said.
Mr Kerry met the opposition leaders after he had met President Kenyatta at State House. “It was only in the essence of reforms.
His message was that everyone — government and opposition — gets behind the reforms.
The President said his government was committed and informed his guest that it (peaceful elections) was not just the work of government alone but the opposition had a role to play,” said a government source.
This perhaps explains Mr Odinga’s strong statement on Tuesday during a Cord meeting with elected leaders at Ufungamano which was also attended by Mr Musyoka and Mr Wetang’ula.
The three Cord principals also threw their support behind the report with Mr Odinga urging the coalition’s MPs to pass it without amendments.