The opposition coalition meets on Friday in Machakos in a final attempt to rally Mr Raila Odinga’s co-principals behind his planned swearing-in as the people’s president, scheduled for January 30.
Even as a technical organ of the opposition National Super Alliance sought to dispel reports of divisions over the oath plan, sources within the coalition revealed that talks between the four principals on Monday and Tuesday, aimed at reaching a common ground on the matter, had ended without a deal.
The issue will be discussed afresh during Friday’s meeting at Maanzoni Lodge. Thereafter, the team will proceed to Machakos, where it will launch the county’s people’s assembly.
It is understood that financiers and a few hardliners in Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement are behind the push for the former Prime Minister to take a presidential oath despite the risk of the ramifications both locally and internationally.
Among the thorny issues facing Nasa are the venue of the swearing-in ceremony, the likelihood of violent confrontations with police, the charges Mr Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka could face, and possible reactions by the international community. Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula are the other co-principals.
The Nasa leadership, it is understood, does not want Mr Odinga to take an oath in a private residence like Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye and his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) did in May 2016, since such action would be taken as an exercise in futility by the Jubilee Party.
The meeting at Maanzoni, therefore, will be used to address these sticky issues and seek ways out of the tight corner the opposition has found itself in.
On Thursday, the People’s Assembly Organising Committee said arrangements for Mr Odinga’s swearing-in ceremony are complete.
The committee chairman, Dr David Ndii, described the ceremony as a reclamation of the Nasa presidential election victory of August 8, 2017, which he claimed the Supreme Court validated by annulling Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory.
“We advise our people to reject and ignore the plain lies and half-truths being peddled by sections of the media and the political class that the swearing-in of Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka is a bargaining chip for dialogue,” Dr Ndii said during a press conference at Okoa Kenya offices in Nairobi.
The committee made the clarification as the government stood its ground on the legality of the planned oathing, warning Mr Odinga that he could face treason charges.
Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe, while responding to an interview in which Mr Odinga indicated that he could run a parallel government from exile, said the position of the government on the matter had not changed.
He was referring to an earlier statement by Attorney-General Githu Muigai, who said the oathing of Mr Odinga would be treasonable.
“Acts against the Kenyan law within or outside Kenya will be treated accordingly,” said Mr Kiraithe.
In an interview with Voice of America on Tuesday, Mr Odinga vowed to form a rival government after he is sworn in, even if it is based outside the country. He said his oath of office will be based on the results of the August 8, 2017 election, which he claims he won.
“This is not a joke,” said Mr Odinga during the interview. “An illegitimate government is in office, and the one that the people actually wanted to be there is outside. On January 30, we will end this. We will be sworn in (on the basis of) the August 8 results, which show we won.”
During their last public engagement in Kakamega on January 7, Nasa leaders said the drastic step could be averted if President Kenyatta acceded to calls for national dialogue, which they said must address electoral and police reforms, judicial independence, devolution, and restructuring the executive.
But President Kenyatta has previously ruled out any talks on political issues, suggesting he can only entertain discussions on economic transformation of the country.
This week, the four principals have held at least two different meetings to try to diffuse claims that the other three principals are slowly crawling away from Mr Odinga over the oath plan to avoid what they believe will be a messy confrontation with the State. The two meetings have not yielded any tangible fruit.
However, Dr Ndii dismissed claims of disagreement over the oath, saying it was part of the disinformation of the political opponents. He maintained the event will go on, but insisted they are open to dialogue.
“It (dialogue) is the only way out of the current political crisis,” he said. “The country must embark on an urgent, honest and far-reaching conversation without which Kenya will not stand for long.”
Dr Ndii observed that the nation is deeply divided between two irreconcilable political values — authoritarian rule and democracy — adding that time has come for Kenyans to talk about why the nation has this divide and how it can be bridged.
But, he clarified, Nasa “is not holding its breath for dialogue with Jubilee Party, much as we believe the country needs it”.