Why Wiper is hesitant on Raila oath

Misgivings run deep over what Nasa coalition partners, particularly Kalonzo-allied MPs see as ODM’s overbearing visibility and domination of key slots in House committees.

Momentum for the planned swearing in of Nasa leader Raila Odinga as the “People’s President” has run into headwinds following apprehensions by some partners disgruntled by the way Parliamentary leadership slots were shared within the Opposition coalition.

Part of the agenda at yesterday’s summit by Nasa principals was deliberation on the issue that has seen MPs allied to Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper party openly protest after Raila’s ODM took most of the powerful committee seats, including the chairmanship of Public Accounts Committee and Public Investments Committee. Less vocal, but equally uncomfortable over the issue, is co-principal Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress.

The other partner in the opposition formation is Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula of Ford Kenya. Yesterday’s meeting ended without the co-principals reaching a consensus on the thorny issue of swearing in with another meeting scheduled for either today or before the week ends to hopefully deal with the issue. Sources at the meeting held at the Karen County Club said matters hit a dead end after Kalonzo insisted on being granted an extra senior parliamentary seat before Wiper could endorse the swearingin ceremony that Raila, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula are said to have been determined to push through.

“The three co-principals decided to postpone the meeting after it was felt that Wiper was using the swearing-in issue to demand for one of the influential positions in Parliament,” said a source privy to the meeting. The committee, led by David Ndii, that is working on the swearing-in preparations had reportedly agreed on January 30 as the tentative day for the ceremony that had earlier been scheduled for December 12 last year.

Dead end

But Wiper is said to have insisted on having Suna East MP Junet Mohamed dropped as the Minority Chief Whip to pave way for the appointment an MP from Wiper. But speaking to People Daily by telephone after the meeting, Mudavadi downplayed the differences and maintained that it was a “consultative caucus which shall continue until all the contentious issues are agreed upon”. “All the co-principals were present and we made positive progress. These talks shall continue to address some of the challenges that emerge with each passing day,” said Mudavadi. He, however, assured that the issue of sharing of parliamentary slots is still being deliberated upon among affiliate parties.

The fallout over slots saw Wiper suspend a “People’s Assembly” meeting that was scheduled to be held at Maanzoni Lodge in Machakos though the official explanation was that Kalonzo had pushed for the adjournment in order to bring Narc leader and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu on board. Differences emerged after ODM took eight out of the 14 key slots in the House committees leaving six seats to be shared among ANC, Wiper and Ford-Kenya, which Wiper chairman Kivutha Kibwana said went against original agreements. Disgruntled coalition partners, mainly Wiper, which felt it had received the short end of the stick and reportedly threatened to back out of Raila’s January 30 oath plan unless the House committees were restructured.

Secret meetings

Nasa coalition members were irked when Leader of Minority John Mbadi in Parliament presented to the Office of the Clerk names of members who will sit in three committees. It emerged that of the 16 members to sit in the House Business Committee, Procedure and Rules and the Selection Committees, 11 are from ODM. Wiper and ANC parties contemplated turning down their positions in the committees if their demands to be included in the leadership positions are not addressed.

ANC subsequently met at its Lavington headquarters, Nairobi, where its continued stay in Nasa was discussed. Insiders within Raila and Kalonzo’s camps sent out mixed signals about where the meeting was to take place, keeping journalists guessing about what was in the offing. Multiple venues were mentioned to the press, including Raila’s Capital Hill office, Cold Springs and Hemingways Hotel only for them to emerged from Karen Country Club late in the evening having already had the meeting. Security details guarding the principles intimated to People Daily that multiples venues had been issued as decoy to keep off the media …”whose attention was not needed”. Ndii, during a recent press conference, assured that swearing in of Raila and Kalonzo as his deputy was on course with the committee tasked expected to be made public soon.

Though there have been claims that Kalonzo and Wetang’ula have been secretly meeting Jubilee leaders (allegation sensationally made by lawyer Miguna Miguna), which they have denied, Raila had vowed he will be sworn in despite intense pressure from local and international actors and a warning by Attorney General Githu Muigai that the act is treasonable for which punishment is death.

“Since August 8th 2017, more than 215 people have lost their lives at the hands of the Kenya Police. Families have been left torn apart for exercising their democratic rights. It cannot be right that innocent children playing have become shooting targets for a rogue police force. They have asked us all to ‘forget and move on.’ We will not forget the spirit of all the children who are no longer with us. We will not move on from the deaths of all these innocent lives. For as long as we keep marching on, we shall emerge victorious!” he tweeted on Friday. Legal opinion is, however, sharply divided on the implications and relevance of Raila’s swearing-in if it comes to pass and the place and role of Peoples Assembly.