Opposition chief Raila Odinga has flatly rejected a US push to establish a government of national unity headed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, his nemesis.
US President Donald Trump dispatched top Africa diplomat Donald Yamamoto to Nairobi for two days to unlock the stalemate threatening to tear the country apart.
Rejecting US appeals to call off his “inauguration”, Raila says he will be sworn in as President by a People’s Assembly on Tuesday next week.
That’s Jamhuri Day, marking Kenya’s independence as a republic. Kenyatta will address the nation and expound on his vision for the next five years.
To signify America’s geopolitical interest in Kenyan stability, Yamamoto landed on Monday and kicked off a flurry of meetings with the Raila-led NASA coalition, civil society groups and President Kenyatta.
Yamamoto was accompanied by US National Security Council Director for Africa Jonathan Howard.
Yamamoto first met Raila and his team on Monday before meeting Kenyatta yesterday.
He was to meet Raila again yesterday before flying to Ethiopia where he will meet African Union and other officials.
Multiple sources familiar with the meetings told the Star that Raila was adamant and rejected any suggestion of a unity government. In the past, he had called for a six-month transition government to prepare for free elections, but that has been overtaken by events and deepening estrangement.
US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec has lost the confidence of the Opposition and has often been accused of bias and mis-advising Washington on the Kenyan crisis and the impact of the protracted standoff.
Yamamoto’s diplomatic offensive rekindles memories of the tense talks in 2008, led by former UN Kofi Annan, that led to formation of the Grand Coalition government. Mwai Kibaki was President, Raila was Prime Minister
But in a signal that the talks had collapsed, NASA yesterday wrote to 11 opposition governors requesting venues for Raila’s swearing-in as the People’s President — against US advice.
“The United States also urges opposition leaders to work within Kenya’s laws to pursue the reforms they seek and avoid extra-constitutional actions such as the proposed ‘inauguration ceremony’ on December 12,” the US Embassy in Nairobi said in a statement yesterday.
“We again call for an immediate, sustained, open, and transparent national conversation involving all Kenyans to build national unity, address long-standing issues, and resolve the deep divisions that the electoral process has exacerbated,” it said.
According to the US, the national dialogue can lead to a constitutional amendment, paving the way for creation of the position of Prime Minister and two deputies to accommodate NASA.
Raila’s men and women would also be incorporated in the Cabinet.
Also present during talks with Yamamoto were Raila’s NASA
co-principals Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya), as well as Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, representing Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.
However, in contrast with the 2007-2008 Grand Coalition government when Raila and Kibaki were officially equal partners, Kenyatta will remain head of state.
The wording of the US statement to newsrooms left no doubt it had embraced Kenyatta as the head.
“As President Kenyatta begins his second term, the United States will work to deepen our partnership with Kenya of over 50 years. We are committed to working closely with the Kenyan government and people to strengthen further our excellent ties and to enhance security, democracy, and prosperity for everyone,” the statement said.
Historically, national unity governments are usually formed during times of war or national emergency.
In an apparent response to the US diplomat, Raila’s adviser Salim Lone said Kenya has never been as polarised as it has been in the last few months.
“It’s polarised because both the August and October elections were stolen, and because of a host of other murderous actions by this regime that have inflamed millions. The country is at a tipping point in a way it never has before,” Lone said in a statement to newsrooms.
In a clear indication that the Raila swearing-in is not empty talk, Lone, a veteran journalist and ex-UN spokesman in Baghdad, said the swearing-in will be within the law.
“Mr Odinga’s swearing will be lawful. It will help prevent further polarisation by giving Kenyans hope for electoral justice that was denied them, under a genuinely independent IEBC. It will also give new impetus for the People’s Assembly to guide county assemblies in urgently addressing a number of pressing economic and justice issues that will provide material benefits to our people,” Lone said.
The 11 counties where NASA is requesting the swearing in venues are among the 13 counties that have passed the controversial motion establishing People’s Assemblies.
The county assembles also resolved that they will not recognise Kenyatta as duly elected President.
“Your county having passed the People’s Assembly motion, the presidential inauguration team is requesting your office to provide a venue for this high-level event in your county,” the NASA letter says.
The letters are addressed to Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Okoth Obado (Migori), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Wilbur Ottichilo (Vihiga), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Cornel Rasanga (Siaya).
Raila has repeatedly indicated his willingness to enter into a dialogue even now, Lone said, if it is held between equals, as in 2008 between him and Kibaki.
“Mr Odinga’s only condition for the dialogue is that it must have an agreed agenda, which should, unlike in 2008, include electoral justice,” he said.
“The stolen elections apart, these have included the brutal torture and killing of IEBC IT chief Chris Msando and the intimidation of the entire Commission; the abuse and threats against Supreme Court justices; and the killing of scores of unarmed Kenyans lawfully protesting these crimes.”
On November 28, the Star exclusively reported that Kenyatta is reaching out to Raila for a political deal to save the country from deepening division.
This was after two meetings between Jubilee National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and Raila’s elder brother Oburu Oginga.
Uhuru reportedly agreed to give some Cabinet slots and key government jobs to Raila’s men to ease tension.
Raila has rejected any such overtures.
Analysts have said Uhuru will find it difficult to govern with Raila’s opposition, as huge swathes of the country refused to vote the controversial October 26 presidential rerun.
At least 25 counties did not vote in the poll that was marred by low turnout.
“He [Raila] has exhausted all the constitutional means to ascend to power, but politically he remains lethal,” warns political analyst Danstan Omari.