The committee began the talks in early August, after a series of protests organised by the opposition coalition Azimio la Umoja one Kenya leader Raila Odinga turned deadly.
Raila had called for protests, contesting President William Ruto’s win during the 2022 divisive polls. He also aimed to pressure Ruto to reduce the high cost of living and do away with the increased taxes.
Finding common ground
With five members from each side of the political table, the committee of 10 has been consulting ordinary Kenyans and experts from various fields to try and find a common ground on various issues, such as electoral and constitutional reforms, enhancing national cohesion and how to reduce high cost of living.
Kenyans have said if we do not address the cost of living, there will be no deal
The final report is expected to be handed over to both Ruto and Raila for endorsement in the next few days, but will also be debated by lawmakers in both the Senate, and the National Assembly. But the opposition has already raised a red flag.
Former vice president Kalonzo Musyoka, who led the opposition in the talks, has cautioned that the final report may be compromised if the government fails to agree that the issue of high cost of living should be addressed and highly prioritised.
“Kenyans have said if we do not address the cost of living, there will be no deal,” Kalonzo told supporters at a political gathering in the Western region, adding that they would not compromise on this issue.
“If there is a document to append our signatures, we won’t sign if it doesn’t meet the expectations of the Kenyan people,” Musyoka said.
Raila has also echoed Musyoka’s cautionary remarks, insisting that results of the 2022 presidential polls must be first audited before the report is embraced.
The veteran political chief accuses Wafula Chebukati, the former chairman of the country’s electoral agency, for stealing votes in favour of Ruto.
Other voices have chimed in, too, calling for the reduction of high cost of living to be prioritised in the final report.
“We plead for review and study ways we can address and mitigate the effects of the high cost of living,” said the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops in a joint statement in Nairobi.
“We are concerned on the high Cost of living…leaving millions struggling to put food on the table..” pic.twitter.com/xTK8OEd5SM
— KENYA CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS(KCCB) (@KenyaKccb) November 12, 2022
Kenyans on the brink
Kenyan media reported last week that Ruto held a closed-door meeting with parliamentarians from his ruling coalition, telling lawmakers that his hands are tied over the rising fuel prices in the country, due to increase in the global prices.
He indicated that this has also hugely contributed to Kenya’s high cost of living.
Life has become unbearable, with all these increased taxes. I expect the report to address that
Last Thursday, addressing the Nation through Parliament, Ruto chose to speak highly of the political talks with the opposition side, saying he believes the bi-partisan conversations will deepen democracy and enhance national unity.
“The talks are in the spirit of goodwill, fraternity and commitment to the national interest and the welfare of the nation,” he said.
While the government maintains that surging prices are out of their hands, ordinary Kenyans are looking for answers and solutions to deal with costs that have skyrocketed.
“Life has become unbearable, with all these increased taxes. I expect the report to address that,” Joe Njane, who works for a private company in Nairobi, tells The Africa Report.
But it is not only city dwellers who are finding life difficult — smallholder farmers in other parts of the country are suffering, because people are not buying produce.
Evans Saina is a farmer in Loitokitok region, close to the Tanzania-Kenya border. He tells The Africa Report his farm produce is not getting market due to lack of buyers, and he wants the report to address the plight of small farmers.
“My regular customers say the economy is hard. They don’t have enough money. I don’t know who will buy these tomatoes,” he says.
The opposition is pushing for a political decision aimed at showing ordinary Kenyans who took to the streets to protest that they care about their situation, says Mombasa-based political analyst Anthony Aroshee.
“[The] opposition is showing that they went to the talks to speak on behalf of Kenyans, who are facing harsh economic times,” Aroshee tells The Africa Report.
In the past, during the political talks of 2007 and 2017, the opposition leaders were criticised by their followers for forgetting about them after reaching a deal with the government.
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