- In a constitutional democracy like ours, all citizens and their leadership should be held to account in the strict sense of what the law envisions.
- It is a considered view that the quest to reduce the cost of living will not be suspended during the anticipated talks.
A sigh of relief engulfed the country in the wake of offer and counter-offers between President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga and consequently putting on hold demonstrations by the Azimio brigade.
After weeks of what appeared to be sustained demonstrations organised by the opposition leaders, the president made a surprise turn to extend an olive branch to Raila and his team.
This is welcome considering the loss of lives and property that the nation was witnessing. Ugly scenes of looting shops and supermarkets and even destroying a mortuary in Kisumu had become surprising events in a country that is respected within the region.
Keen observers would say the President’s body language was inclined towards striking a conciliatory approach to resolving the issues raised by the opposition team despite the hardline stance projected by those close to him. The President’s move is a clear signal that going forward the opposition team will be listened to.
A section of Kenyans has had varied views about the calls for demonstrations by the former Prime Minister.
Some analysts may be inclined towards the view that lowering the cost of living was merely an entry point to push the government of the day to start listening to the opposition team ahead of the much-awaited reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and other new demands that will be placed on the negotiation table.
One wonders why Raila would call for demonstrations to lower the cost of food prices barely six months into Ruto’s presidency when indeed he kept quiet during the entire period of the 'handshake' that was characterised by a high cost of living.
There are noticeable indications that the price of unga has been coming down as well as the prices of farm inputs like fertiliser since the assumption of office by President Ruto. It is for this reason that some analysts have had a good reason to presume that the Azimio leader has had a different script disguised under the guise of lowering the cost of living.
The talk around reconstituting the electoral agency is likely to take the centre stage to try and find the middle ground around ahead of the next general election.
Indications are clear that both sides of the political divide will put on the table new demands ahead of the bipartisan talks. Questions abound on why some of the proposals mirror the Building Bridges Initiative proposals despite final outcome on the BBI proposals a year ago when the court declared the process and some proposals illegal.
It should go on record that Ruto never supported the 2010 Constitution and he was the leading light in the No team.
The bipartisan talks, therefore, should be viewed as providing both sides with an opportunity to close ranks and make the necessary changes to the existing legal regime to address the ongoing contestations surrounding IEBC reconstitution, among others. It shouldn’t surprise Kenyans to witness some of the proposals under the BBI finding their way back into the public discourse.
What remains to be seen is how the now much-anticipated talks will be undertaken. Will the country witness structured talks akin to the Koffi Annan-led Serena talks of 2008 considering the opposition team has already propped up a suggestion of its key representatives besides a suggestion for an external expert to lead the talks?
As to whether the government side will agree to these conditions is something we have to wait and see. Undoubtedly, Raila does not trust the existing legal framework within which the electoral commission should be constituted. Calls by the Azimio leader to have the 'Cherera Four' reinstated after being bundled out of the office can only complicate issues.
The focus, instead, should centre on how the new commissioners will be picked by whichever formula and framework that will be agreed upon and move the country forward.
There is a need to strengthen existing institutions charged with key responsibilities such as managing the country’s elections. Kenyans should be vigilant not to allow political interests to overshadow the interests of the common people.
The constitutional and statutory safeguards should not be suspended in such important engagements for the proposals to have legal force. This, therefore, requires that the members of civil society and Kenyans in general get involved to ensure that both the government and the opposition adhere to the rule of law.
In a constitutional democracy like ours, all citizens and their leadership should be held to account in the strict sense of what the law envisions as opposed to opting for a shortcut for political convenience.
It is a considered view that the quest to reduce the cost of living will not be suspended during the anticipated talks. The government and the opposition should be honest to discuss how best the cost of living can be lowered and forge a politically healthy environment that will fuel public and international confidence to make Kenya an investment hub.
The cost of fuel and access to electricity should be within reach by ordinary Kenyans. The moment access to food starts competing with access to education; we know what will be ignored.
The government also has to ensure citizens can access basic needs and quality education as a matter of constitutional right if we hope to keep the dream of churning out an informed and competitive citizenry across the globe.
Lawyer and public policy consultant