President Uhuru Kenyatta Saturday faced mounting calls for national dialogue on key issues affecting Kenyans when he visited Cord leader Raila Odinga’s political backyard as Jubilee leaders asked their Cord counterparts to drop conditions for the proposed meetings.
President Kenyatta visited Nyanza as Mr Odinga chaired a meeting of Cord leaders in Nairobi where one of the main items on the agenda was the planned Saba Saba rally scheduled for July 7, ODM chairman for Nairobi George Aladwa confirmed.
Leaders in Nyanza, where President Kenyatta was attending a burial, told the Head of State to go out and meet other leaders, listen to their views and consider widening the scope of regional representation in his government.
President Kenyatta, speaking in Rongo, said he was ready to hold 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 said.
In the Rift Valley, his deputy William Ruto assumed a similar tone in a series of meetings.
“If the Opposition think that they can tell us what to do, I want to tell them that they should not waste their time and energy. They better concentrate on other issues and give us time to work for Kenyans,” said Mr Ruto.
“Any dialogue on any subject will be done within the institutions established by the Constitution.Kama ni maneno mengine tumesema wakuje tukunywe chai tukizungumza (If they want to talk about other things, we have said they can come over for a cup of tea).”
Six MPs and governors Okoth Obado (Migori), Dr Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Mr Jack Ranguma (Kisumu) and Migori Senator Wilfred Machage attended the Rongo burial.
Though an ODM man, Mr Otieno is an ally of President Kenyatta, who recently appointed him an envoy to the Sudan peace talks.
Mr Odinga has been at loggerheads with Mr Otieno, who is fronting a new party to rival the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in Nyanza.
His alternative platform is referred to in some quarters as kalausi (whirlwind).
Dr Machage said holding the proposed dialogue was both heroic and a sign of statesmanship.
“You must consult with Cord leaders led by Raila Odinga. Dialogue is a step of courage and not cowardice,” he said.
The senator also told the President to make sure all Kenya’s 42 communities were accommodated in his government.
His host, Mr Otieno, said unity between Kikuyus and Kalenjins only will not save the country from tribal balkanisation.
“You must bring all the tribes on board,” said the Rongo MP during the burial of his daughter, Efylne.
“Don’t fear dialogue … go out and meet everybody to get new ideas on how to improve the livelihood of Kenyans,” said Mr Otieno.
Dr Kidero asked the President to appoint more professionals from Luo Nyanza to his government.
“In the government of your late father Jomo Kenyatta, the Luo region had four ministers … we want our people to feel adequately represented in government,” said Dr Kidero. “We pay taxes like the rest of Kenyans and, therefore, no region should be marginalised,” he said.
Other MPs present – Jared Kopiyo (Awendo), James Rege (Karachuonyo), Mathias Robi (Kuria West), Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East), Joseph Manje (Kajiado North) and Barre Shill (Fafi), asked the Head of State to embrace dialogue and consultations.
Mr Rege said Cord meant well in their quest for dialogue.
“We want to talk and help you to deliver on your promises such as laptops to schools and don’t make us (Cord strongholds) feel like orphans.”
Mr Odinga remained in Nairobi Saturday and did not attend the funeral though some had expected him to show up.
His handlers had indicated that the former Prime Minister was to attend the funeral of the Siaya county minister for health, Dr Sylvester Adala, in Ugenya Saturday, but he did not turn up.
Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga relayed Mr Odinga’s apologies to the mourners gathered at the Ugenya funeral.
Ugunja MP James Wandayi said: “It is hypocritical for the President to speak against our call for dialogue and then go to our backyard expecting that we will talk. We will keep snubbing them until they agree to talk.”
At the Rongo meeting, President Kenyatta promised to serve all Kenyans equally and fairly. “Let us not delve into the past but focus more on the future. Let us keep the political temperatures down and allow my government to deliver on its promises,” he said.
“Everybody is welcome for talks at State House and there will be tea and even lunch,” he said amid laughter.
The President later flew to Meru from where he asked the Cord coalition to give it more time to implement development pogrammes instead of intensifying criticism.
The President said that although his government had been in power for only a year, there had been challenges to be navigated but exuded confidence that he will be successful in implementing his manifesto.
He said “we do not want to say that we do not have problems but at least we have made huge steps. We took over the government a year ago with challenges which had been presented by devolution”.
But in Siaya, Mr Wandayi took a hardliner position and said the talks can and shall go on with or without his input, adding that the contest is not about 2017 as is perceived in some quarters of the government.
“Mr Kenyatta must learn that he will be bound by whatever decisions are reached at that time when Kenyans will gather at Saba Saba,” he said.
He added that Jubilee has options of waiting for July 7 and face the wrath of Kenyans or sit with Cord leaders to lay the ground for a better future for all.
At Dr Adala’s burial, Ugenya legislator David Ochieng disagreed with ODM leader Raila over the call for mass action. “We advise our leaders in Cord to keep their plans under cover in order to beat Jubilee,” said Mr Ochieng. Mr Ochieng said that disbanding the IEBC will not work.
Dr Christine Ombaka asked the government to sit down with the Opposition to avoid any form of violence.
“We don’t want to witness the violence that normally comes with such political contests,” Dr Ombaka said.