The Cord leadership yesterday appeared to tone down its demand for dialogue with the Jubilee administration, as it shifted gear to seeking a direct meeting between Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Cord leader Raila said this was the best way to end the stalemate between the two sides, as he indicated the wish to meet the President without his Jubilee team, whom he accused of derailing efforts to have a national dialogue. Raila said he was optimistic that the President would respond to a letter he wrote to him last week. Raila made the call as several political voices continued to dissuade him from pressing on with his call for national dialogue, which they noted, had created rising tension.
Former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende and former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo dismissed Raila’s call for dialogue, terming it a waste of time (See story page 11). Separately, Ainamoi MP Benjamin Lang’at dismissed the planned opposition rallies as meant to incite Kenyans. And the two Majority Leaders in the Senate and the National Assembly, Kithure Kindiki and Aden Duale told Raila to stop demanding national dialogue with the government, terming it unconstitutional.
Responding to Raila’s Friday open letter to President Uhuru, Duale and Kindiki insisted the issues Raila wants discussed can be addressed through existing legal frameworks. “We urge him to let his coalition do its bit within constitutionally laid- down structures and to enjoy his break from political leadership,” the two said in a joint statement. They said the government is in-charge and is moving consciously and steadily to deliver the transformation it promised Kenyans.
Duale and Kindiki also claimed the former premier’s continued public push for dialogue may bring unnecessary tension among Kenyans ,and is only for his own political gains. “The structured dialogue he demands is a fabrication as absurd as it is unnecessary: there are plenty of working structures. He simply wants the structures to be customised to suit his political needs. He wants to be at the centre of national discourse without the people’s permission,” they charged. They say the government is ready to listen to any Kenyan with ideas on how to make the country better, but not in the manner in which Raila is demanding.
“Mr Odinga has never had difficulty engaging government at the highest level when there was need. During the Westgate outrage for example, he was able, together with his partners, to communicate with the President with the greatest of ease,” they recalled. But Raila, who spoke yesterday at Cathedral of Praise Church in Imara Daima, Nairobi, said he represents many people hence the need to dialogue directly with the President on outstanding issues affecting the country. Last week, religious leaders said they were reaching out to President Uhuru and Raila in a bid to find solutions to challenges the country is facing.
“Kama naandika barua kwa Rais nitapata jibu kutoka kwa Rais, sio kutoka kwa hao wengine hapo katikati…sitaki kuongea na hawa watu wa Rais (I wrote a letter to the President and I expect to get a response from him, not from other people around him…I do not want to speak with his people),” Raila said when he was given a chance to address the congregation. He added: “(I want to sit with the President without those others who are making noise).” In the letter the Cord leader wrote last Friday to President Uhuru, he said he had no intentions of joining the Government, adding his intention was to use national dialogue to debate and find solutions to problems he claims may tear the country apart if not immediately addressed.
Raila similarly dismissed Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi’s claims that he does not have the locus standi to talk on behalf the people on issues affecting the country. “How can he (Abdullahi) say I do not have the locus standi to dialogue yet I represent so many people in the country?” posed Raila. “We extended an olive branch to the Government that we sit and talk about outstanding issues,” he said. Also present were Deputy Minority leader Jakoyo Midiwo, Siaya Senator James Orengo, Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra, Nairobi ODM Chairman George Aladwa and former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo.
Aladwa, who had been arrested on Saturday night and released later over alleged incitement, called for reconciliation saying the country is bigger than any politician. At the same time, the Cord leader aked why the Truth Justice and Reconciliation (TJRC) report was yet to be published, despite being presented to the President last year. He said the Commission spent billions of shillings going round the country collecting views from Kenyans on historical injustices.