30 December 2017

Kenya: National Dialogue Expected Any Time Now

National dialogue to ease political tension in Kenya is expected to begin this week when the Multi Sectoral Forum, which has the backing of an international committee, meets to roll out a roadmap that is expected to end in June.

The opposition National Super Alliance has maintained that dialogue with President Uhuru Kenyatta is the only matter that would dissuade them from abandoning the planned swearing in of Raila Odinga as the "people's president" and establishment of People's Assemblies as a parallel structure to provide a platform for its supporters to discuss their destiny.

Mr Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, who was his running mate in the August polls, are under pressure from their supporters to take oath of office as president and deputy president respectively to participate in the national dialogue with President Kenyatta as equals.

"If Uhuru will not allow dialogue, Kalonzo and Raila will be sworn in. Don't blame us when we are sworn in," said Mr Musyoka on Thursday in his Kitui backyard after arriving from Germany, where his wife Pauline had been hospitalised.

The Multi Sectoral Forum has already encountered one hurdle after the Nasa leadership distanced itself from the forum's approach, which it said does not resonate with its key demands -- electoral justice, police reforms and constitutional review -- to protect devolution from constant attack from the national government.

The Multi Sectoral Forum argues that the opposition's demands called for consultations to comprehensively address political, economic and social concerns that emerged during the campaign period that nearly pushed the country into crisis.

Businessman Lee Karuri, who co-chairs the Forum, told The EastAfrican that they will have to adjust their plan of action to meet the expectations of all Kenyans.

Other players in the proposed dialogue are diplomats led by US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec and his German counterpart Jutta Frasch.

In his Christmas Day message, Mr Odinga promised supporters a major announcement in the new year, detailing Nasa's roadmap to dialogue on electoral justice and culminating in his being sworn in as the "people's president."

Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka insist that their victory in August was stolen going by results in their possession.

Kenya has endured the longest electoral period in the region, which began in February with the release of the polls timetable that activated campaigns within political parties and set the stage for the main campaigns that kicked off in June, ushering in the August 8 general elections.

Rwanda for instance, which also held its election in the first week of August closed the electoral calendar when President Paul Kagame was re-elected with a whopping 98 per cent of the votes cast on August 4.

President Kagame consequently named his Cabinet and started another seven-year term. President Kenyatta, however, has not been able to name his Cabinet nearly a month after swearing in as lobbying and horse trading force the Kenyan leader to delay the unveiling of his new team.

With the opposition warning that it will ultimately take office and rejecting overtures to be co-opted into government, President Kenyatta and his allies have been vetting the proposed Cabinet Secretaries to be unveiled any time after New Year's Day.

The Kenyan electoral process was prolonged by a Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the August 8 presidential elections, setting the stage for a repeat poll in October.

The re-run was boycotted by the opposition on the grounds that the electoral body had failed to address Nasa's "irreducible minimums" that sought a level playing field.


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