The government has put on hold a national conference that had apparently been planned even before the opposition Cord demanded a national dialogue.
A statement released Sunday by State House in response to inquiries by the Nation revealed that the conference dubbed “National Rebirth: Actualising the Transformation of Kenya” had been postponed after the whole issue became politicised.
State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu said the conference was first proposed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in January as part of the Jubilee Coalition’s social transformation agenda.
“However, after the politicisation of the conference, it has now been postponed indefinitely,” Mr Esipisu said.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his Cord alliance partner Kalonzo Musyoka was among those to be invited to address the conference, according to Mr Esipisu.
Others were Amani Coalition leader Musalia Mudavadi, former Cabinet minister Martha Karua and Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.
There was also an international guest list that included four African leaders — Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jorge Carlos Fonseca of Cape Verde and Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam of Mauritius.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark were among international dignitaries who were to attend the talks.
Mr Esipisu said the conference was being organised by a committee co-chaired by the UN resident coordinator Nardos Bekele-Thomas and includes teams from the Ministry of Devolution and Planning headed by PS Peter Mangiti, United Nations Development Programme Kenya, led by Bekele-Thomas, teams from the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the Chamber of Commerce and religious institutions among others. The team was supported by the national dialogue advisory committee led by former Justice permanent secretary Gichira Kibara and former Planning PS Edward Sambili.
On arrival from a visit to the United States at the end of last month, Mr Odinga led a large welcome rally at Uhuru Park in demanding a national dialogue to discuss critical issues afflicting Kenya.
Last week, Mr Odinga had proposed that Jubilee name a technical team that will meet its counterparts from Cord to set terms of engagement for the talks.
Last Sunday, President Uhuru Kenyatta welcomed calls for national dialogue to discuss challenges facing the country but ruled out inviting the Opposition into government. Mr Odinga later said Cord was not interested in power sharing but only in addressing key challenges facing the country including corruption and terrorism.
Later last week, he said Cord would also discuss disbanding the electoral commission, a proposal that Mr Kenyatta flatly rejected on Saturday, saying the rules on why the IEBC was to be removed from office was set out in the Constitution.
Mr Odinga has given the government until July 7, the Saba Saba anniversary, to convene the national conference, failure to which it would embark on a series of countrywide political rallies to put pressure on the government to address the issues affecting Kenyans.
On Saturday, while speaking in Rongo, President Kenyatta said he was ready for dialogue with all leaders on challenges facing Kenyans but ruled out engaging in talks with conditions.
“My doors are open for talks on issues that move the country forward. I am ready to meet those willing to contribute to national development. I believe that no single person has a monopoly of ideas. Let us sit down and address real issues,” he told mourners at the burial of politician Dalmas Otieno’s daughter.
Sunday, Mr Esipisu said the purpose of the original conference was social transformation in line with Jubilee manifesto’s theme of developing Kenya and securing the country’s prosperity.
“We had wanted to have a discussion between and among local and international leaders about how Kenya can centralise its core functions to the “national values and principles of governance” as outlined in Article 10 of our Constitution,” Mr Esipisu said. “Essentially, it was a concept that will be a guide towards the achievement and attainment of a national rebirth”.
It was not clear whether the agenda of the meeting will be changed to accommodate views from the Opposition.