Members of Parliament from the Government and Opposition have formed a group to spearhead national dialogue in the wake of the political stand-off between Jubilee and Cord.
The Inter-party Parliamentary Caucus will function along the lines of the Inter-party Parliament Group which negotiated important constitutional reforms before the 1997 election.
Even as MPs were closing ranks, Cord leaders were increasingly coming under diplomatic pressure to drop their push for a rally on Monday.
The MPs and diplomats are stepping in with just six days to the Saba Saba day rally called by Cord Leader Raila Odinga to press for national dialogue on security, alleged corruption, the cost of living, government appointments and disbandment of the electoral commission.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and the government have made it clear that dialogue should be held through the people’s representatives in Parliament but Cord insists that the issues are too weighty to be left to MPs.
Some 115 members from Cord and Jubilee are reported to support the Inter-party Parliamentary Caucus and will hold their first meeting today. The meeting is expected to form a steering committee with a chairman to spearhead the talks.
“Anybody who has been involved in the reform agenda will tell you that for us to make any progress in terms of key issues affecting the country, you must work with Parliament,” said the Rev Mutava Musyimi, who was instrumental in the formation of the caucus.
The Rev Musyimi said the process would best be guided by elected leaders and these are in Parliament, where the caucus would handle the issues.
However, he also said that given that there is a Constitution that addresses issues of sharing of resources and devolution of power, it is difficult to understand where the current agitation was coming from.
The idea for Parliament to form a caucus was first mooted two weeks ago by the Budget and Appropriations Committee, which the Mbeere South MP chairs, following a war of words between Cord and Jubilee over insecurity.
The committee proposed to the House to have a 25-member ad hoc committee to work with religious leaders to ensure MPs also take political responsibility.
However, the House Business Committee rejected the proposal, saying the suggestion could not be handled through a select committee.
The Rev Musyimi thereafter successfully petitioned the Speaker of the National Assembly to allow for the establishment of the caucus. The Speaker approved it and promised support and facilitation from his office after the MP presented the petition with 115 signatures from members.
The idea is to have 16 members from Cord and 16 from Jubilee and a neutral chairperson.
Ainamoi MP Benjamin Langat said he supported dialogue within the National Assembly.
“This is the House that should resolve the main issues affecting Kenyans. It is wrong to say this is a House of small issues…let us sit and discuss issues through a legally recognised process.”
DIALOGUE WITHIN PARLIAMENT
Majority Leader Aden Duale also said that dialogue should be within Parliament.
“It cannot be done outside the confines of the institutions set by this Constitution,” he said. “When I was told that the HBC had rejected the proposal to form an ad hoc committee I asked myself how can we carry it forward in a structured way and that is how I went for the petition,” he said.
In the letter accompanying their petition addressed to the Speaker, the 115 MPs said: “As representatives, we are interested in establishing a caucus that permits and facilitates a network on the prevailing antagonistic political situation in the country. The caucus brings together legislators from all parties and from all parts of the country to ensure that important issues are adequately addressed through dialogue and policy.”
Mr Muturi then approved the formation of the caucus. The issues to be addressed are security, devolution and inclusive economic growth.
Yesterday, Mr Junet Mohammed (Suna East, ODM) said the Rev Musyimi was yet to communicate about the caucus to Cord.
“Cord has to take it to their Parliamentary Group… and then when we have approval from there, Cord MPs can take it from there,” he said.
Mr Agostino Neto (Ndhiwa, ODM) said without a clear idea of what the caucus was seeking to achieve, it would be a hard sell.
“The last IPPG was for constitutional reform. What is the end result of this particular interparty parliamentary committee? Is it talking for talking’s sake?” he asked. “What do we hope to achieve? That is the most important question. There needs to be a clear outcome.”