Raila calls off demos, allows Uhuru 48 hours
The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) has called off protests agitating for the removal of the electoral commission, after meeting church leaders and envoys.
Cord, however, will resume demonstrations on Thursday if no solution is found by 9pm on Wednesday, Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama said on Sunday, while addressing a press conference at his Gigiri office.
“We wanted solutions and we think the government should be given time. They are engaging us at the highest levels,” Mr Muthama said.
Siaya Senator James Orengo added they had agreed during the extensive engagement with diplomats, business community and the clergy, that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) cannot conduct credible elections.
He said they have given the Jubilee coalition, headed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, time to respond to Cord’s demands.
The coalition says that lately, the engagement has been more constructive and candid with the diplomatic community coming out actively.
Also present during the presser were Suna MP Junet Mohamed and Paul Mwangi, Chairman of Okoa Kenya Committee of Experts.
On Friday, the Raila Odinga-led coalition said it had agreed with Jubilee on most of the sticking points in talks to reform the polls body, but still announced heightened street protests.
In a statement read by Cord co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka, the coalition said its supporters would stage demonstrations until all the issues were agreed on.
The Opposition had set four conditions for the talks to take place:
- That the talks take place outside Parliament.
- Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Ekwee Ethuro (Senate) to play no role in the talks.
- The talks to be spearheaded by a lean team of 14 members instead of 22 and not to be undertaken within the Standing Orders;
- The final report not to be subjected to negative amendments by Parliament.
Jubilee, through National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, had said they were ready to reduce the membership of the select committee, keep away the Speakers from the team but insisted that it must be within the rules of Parliament.
And speaking during his tour of Machakos, the President said Cord supporters were free to protest as long as they did not destroy property or attack police.
He overruled a directive by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery last week that outlawed all demonstrations.
“We believe that 70 per cent of the sticking points have been agreed upon,” Cord said in a statement read by Mr Musyoka in Nairobi.
On Sunday, President Kenyatta, speaking in Kitui, reiterated his coalition’s stand, maintaining that talks on reforming the IEBC must be held within constitutional bounds. He also asked Cord to name its 11-member team.
The Deputy President, Mr William Ruto, speaking at the same venue, said the Jubilee Coalition had agreed to negotiate with the Opposition on the issue of IEBC because it has the interest of the country at heart.
“Kenya is bigger than all of us,” Mr Ruto said. “We ask the Opposition to come to the table and stop giving conditions.” This hardening of positions by both camps is likely to raise political temperatures going into the week.
Cord and Jubilee have been playing a game of smoke and mirrors, reaching agreements and disowning them soon after.
It all started on May 31 when it was announced that Cord leaders Raila Odinga and Moses Wetang’ula would attend Madaraka Day celebrations in Nakuru. They didn’t, instead they went ahead with a rival rally at Uhuru Park.
Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta climbed down from his no-talks position and agreed to have a process under the two chambers of Parliament, but only to discuss the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Cord protested at the size of the negotiating team and rejected outright a parliamentary process. It also rejected limiting the talks to IEBC, although it is not clear what else it would like addressed in the negotiations.
Cord’s announcement on Sunday came just three hours after the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Joseph Boinnet, said that the police had allowed the demonstrations to go on and agreed to provide security on condition that Cord provides police with its programme in advance.
Senator Orengo said that Cord had shown goodwill and good faith, and that this was not the first time they were suspending the protests.
“We have had extensive engagements with the diplomats, business community and the clergy. It is unanimous that the IEBC cannot conduct credible elections,” he said.
He, however, dismissed Mr Boinnet’s directive, saying Cord had always furnished police with the details of the planned demonstrations.
“We had done this before and gave the areas of assembly and routes of the protests. Our starting point has always been Uhuru Park,” Mr Orengo said.
Mr Boinnet had earlier in the day said that for police to make rational use of available resources, the leaders had to give information regarding the specific routes they would have used on Monday and the time the demonstrations would have begun and ended.
The police chief also asked Cord to give the approximate number of people expected to take part in the demonstrations, their destinations, the venue of public meetings, and their exit routes once the function was over.
“On (their) part, the police will endeavour to provide the requisite security to the extent that is possible,” Mr Boinnet said, warning that any attacks against police officers or any government facility “will be dealt with in accordance with the law”.
The police directive came just four days after the government banned all demonstrations against IEBC commissioners, claiming they had turned violent.
“To avert further violence and destruction of property, and loss of life, from today, the government prohibits all unlawful demonstrations in the country,” Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaiserry said on Thursday last week.
Reacting to the police request, Cord co-principal and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka said the security agencies should have adopted that approach since the start of the demos, as the police should protect the liberties of both those participating in the demos and those not.
“It is not our wish to stay in the streets forever,” he said. “We are happy that Jubilee have seen the need for us to talk and we have said over and over again that we are ready any time have face-to-face talks and iron all outstanding issues.”
BOUND BY LAW
He reiterated that electoral reforms were not just the removal from office of the eight commissioners, but rather overhauling of the entire electoral system, including the registration of voters and the principal register.
“After the reforms we will have banished the ghost of election stealing and manipulation, so that those who get to positions of leadership will have the force of law, legitimacy, fairness, openness and democratic process behind them,” Mr Musyoka said.
Speaking after a meeting with the clergy, which was also attended by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and his Senate counterpart, Ekwe Ethuro, the President said: “Subsequent to the agreement of the Speakers, a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament be set up in accordance with the standing orders of both Houses,” whose mandate shall be “strictly and exclusively” the matter of IEBC.
When presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu was asked by journalists whether the President and his deputy would name another person to go into the proposed four-member team proposed by Cord, he said: “I have no brief on that.”
“Now, clearly there are people who have always wanted to do things outside of the Constitution, but that is what Kenyans decided overwhelmingly against in 2010,” he said during a press conference on Sunday at State House, alluding to the insistence by Mr Odinga that the proposals of the team be implemented without being subjected to a vote in Parliament.
“With the new Constitution, it was envisaged that roadside and boardroom meetings by a few, solely dedicated to their personal accommodation rather than the national interest, must come to an end,” Mr Esipisu added.
President Kenyatta is set to travel to Angola and then Belgium from Monday, meaning he will not be in the country for the sort of meetings that enabled the decision to have a select committee of MPs set up.
Given that the 11-member team was named by him and Mr Ruto, it is unlikely that there would be a softening of positions despite the numerous meetings envoys and members of the clergy have been holding over the past few days to find an amicable solution to the stalemate.
Reporting by Thomas Waita, John Ngirachu, Zadock Angira and Bernard Mwinzi