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March 22, 2018

AU and religious leaders push for Uhuru, Raila talks

President Uhuru Kenyatta at harambee house.Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE
President Uhuru Kenyatta at harambee house.Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

Intense pressure yesterday was mounting on obdurate President Uhuru Kenyatta and intransigent NASA leader Raila Odinga to pull the country out of political crisis and steer a course towards peace.

When an irresistible force meets an immovable object, a miracle might be required to achieve progress.

Meanwhile, NASA's new strategy is to block elections in as many as 22 constituencies, thus nullifying any election, and pushing for secession.

Religious leaders, trade unions and the African Union urged both leaders to rise above partisan and personal interests and put Kenya first.

Western diplomats in Nairobi were understood to be engaging both sides in quiet but tough diplomacy aimed at reaching a political solution to the impasse.

Both Uhuru and Raila have publicly rejected power-sharing.  

NCIC Secretary Canon Peter Karanja said a government of national unity may be the best solution.

"We would like our leaders not to close the door on this possibility," Karanja said. He has been involved in behind-the-scenes discussions between religious leaders and both sides of the political divide.

The call for peace talks came as NASA leaders rebuked Interior CS Fred Matiang'i for banning its anti-IEBC demonstrations in Nairobi's CBC, Mombasa and Kisumu.

He banned protests earlier in the three major cities after protesters looted shops, smashed cars and damaged other property. In Kisumu 17 people were hospitalised.

Raila is in London where he met former and current government leaders, business people and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to brief them on Kenya's political impasse.

Raila's spokesman Dennis Onyango said the Archbishop expressed deep worry about the trends and wished Kenyans success in dealing with challenges.

AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat called on all stakeholders to exercise leadership during "this crucial period of Kenya’s democracy." 

In a Wednesday night statement, Mahamat said he was closely following the situation, including Raila's withdrawal from the October 26 rerun. He volunteered appropriate initiatives to facilitate a peaceful resolution.

The AU has deployed an poll observer mission in Kenya since September.

COTU secretary general Francis Atwoli proposed a 10-person mediation team comprised of experienced politicians and technocrats.

He proposed as mediators former nominated MP Dr Oburu Odinga, Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, former Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, Busia Senator Amos Wako, former Senator Zipporah Kittony, former Transport Licensing Board chairperson Hassan Kamwaro, former Labour minister Philip Masinde, former State House comptroller Abraham Kiptanui, former Karachuonyo MP Phoebe Asiyo and former Kitui Senator David Musila to mediate the talks.

Yesterday the Star learnt NASA wants to use two strategies to ensure no election is held.

Raila withdrew on Tuesday, protesting failure by the IEBC to meet NASA's irreducible minimums.

Immediately after the High Court on Wednesday allowed other candidates to run,NASA strategists were forced back to the drawing board.

On Wednesday, the High Court in Nairobi threw a lifeline to all August 8 presidential poll losers, spoiling a NASA strategy that depended on a scenario with only two contenders.

Raila's initial plan, before it was scuttled by the court, was to use paragraph 290 of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling which said if a candidate withdraws from the race, the poll is postponed.

On Wednesday, IEBC stated Raila had not submitted the official withdrawal form.

Sources at NASA have told the Star the opposition is considering as many as 22 constituencies where it plans to block an election from taking place. Most are in NASA strongholds, including Nyanza, parts of Western, parts of Coast and Lower Eastern. 

According to Constitution Article 138 (2), presidential election shall be held in all  290 constituencies. Ir states, "If  two or more candidates are nominated, an election shall be held in each constituency.”

This means if the Opposition succeeds in blocking the poll from taking place in their “territory”, they could argue the election was not properly conducted, thus, succeed in blocking Kenyatta's second term.

Yesterday, Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi told the Star there will be no election on October 26 and NASA will ensure the electoral body does not conduct the repeat exercise in some areas to deny the process constitutional legitimacy.

“The election quagmire we are in can only be solved politically. Uhuru and Raila must sit down for the sake of the country,” Atandi told the Star.

Raila is expected to return Saturday evening ahead of a massive rally in Mombasa where NASA will daily demos starting next week.

Also in its arsenal — should it fail to sabotage the poll in 22 constituencies — is to push for secession.

An opposition team is fine-tuning a proposed secession petition aimed at splitting Kenya into Jubilee- and NASA-controlled regions.

Homa Bay town MP Peter Kaluma has written to the IEBC seeking a referendum to create two countries — the Democratic Republic of Kenya and the Central Kenya Republic.

The opposition proposes IEBC allows Kenyans to conduct a simultaneous election for President and self-determination on October 26, when the rerun will take place.

“This would give those who otherwise would not vote in the fresh elections, absent necessary reforms, something to vote on,” reads Kaluma's letter of October 2. "This would also help mitigate incidental public expenditure."

He wants the Constitution amended to redefine Kenya's territory to allow creation of two nations.

“This, it is hoped, will remedy with finality the exclusion of tribalism, inequities, corruption, impunity and general bad governance the vast majority of Kenyans are being subjected to by the ruling Jubilee alliance,” the petition says.

The IEBC is required to examine Kaluma's letter and its grounds, then give directions on whether the petitioner cold draft questions and collect signatures.

The Constitution says a referendum petition must have one million signatures from registered voters.

The regions targeted to form a new state are mostly from the counties won by Raila in the General Election. These include Western Kenya, Nyanza, Coast, and Ukambani.

The initial petition also had some counties in  Rift Valley — Turkana, Pokot, Samburu, Maasai, El Molo, Ilchamus, as well as Northern Kenya. Since then, key NASA point men who were expected to champion the idea have joined Jubilee, complicating strategy for the opposition.


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