Leave us alone: That was the resounding message Opposition leader Raila Odinga sent out to Western envoys in the country on Sunday for asking that he recognises President Uhuru Kenyatta as the duly elected leader of the nation.
Delivered at a rally in Nairobi and peppered with a tinge of indignation, the message was specifically directed at US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec, who has led Western envoys in insisting that the legitimacy of the government of President Kenyatta should be acknowledged by all before national dialogue happens.
Mr Odinga, who last month took oath of office as “the People’s President” and swore never to recognise the presidency of Mr Kenyatta, asked the diplomats to “keep off" Kenyan politics, insisting that Kenyans are capable of solving their problems internally.
He spoke at Lang'ata after visiting victims of the recent Kijiji fire tragedy that claimed four lives.
The National Super Alliance leader accused the envoys of serving selfish interests after they endorsed the outcome of the repeat elections held in October last year.
He boycotted the run-off, explaining that the electoral commission was scarcely prepared to deliver a credible poll.
“They can only be observers,” Mr Odinga said of the envoys.
“Their only interest is to do business at the behest of their countries. They are not interested in our democracy.”
His sentiments were in response to a statement by 11 ambassadors and high commissioners, among them US’s Robert Godec, UK’s Nic Hailey and Canada’s Sara Hradecky, who urged him to “accept the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were the legitimate President and Deputy of Kenya” after the Supreme Court upheld their election on October 26 last year.
“The Opposition needs to accept this as the basis for the dialogue that it, and many Kenyans, want. Stoking and threatening violence are not acceptable, nor are extra-Constitutional measures to seize power,” they said, apparently referring to Mr Odinga’s “People’s President” push.
The statement that angered Mr Odinga was also signed by envoys Jutta Frasch (Germany), Alison Chartres (Australia), Mette Knudsen (Denmark), Victor Conrad Rønneberg (Norway), Anna Jardfelt (Sweden), Frans Makken (Netherlands), Kim Ramoneda (France) and Tarja Fernández (Finland).
In their statement, the diplomats criticised Mr Odinga’s “swearing-in” as a violation of the same Constitution he proudly fought for.
“A father of multiparty democracy has made unsubstantiated claims about elections and unilaterally sworn himself as ‘President’, in deliberate disregard of the Constitution for which he so proudly fought,” they said, warning that Mr Odinga risks further ruining his legacy should he continue disregarding the leadership of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto.
They further warned of the political crisis the country could plunge into should both the government and the Opposition continue disobeying the rule of law, saying the two sides “have taken steps that have undermined Kenya’s institutions and driven wedges among its citizens”.
“Today,” the diplomats continued, “Kenya stands at a fork in the road along its democratic journey. Its leaders need to take the right path for Kenya to succeed.”
Mr Odinga was “sworn in” as the “People’s President” on January 30 to the chagrin of the government, which responded by cracking down on Nasa leaders who played a role in the ceremony.
It has already deported self-declared National Resistance Movement (NRM) general Miguna Miguna to Canada.
Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang, who was to be the oath administrator, has been charged with treason and released on a Sh50,000 bond.
The Nasa has been pushing a four-point agenda for national dialogue, which includes strengthening of institutions like the police and the Judiciary, ethnic inclusivity in government, good governance and electoral justice, and devolution.
President Kenyatta, on the other hand, has insisted that he will only dialogue on the economic transformation of the country.
In the middle of the ideological divide are Western diplomats who insist that dialogue can only happen when Mr Raila recognises Mr Kenyatta as the President.
This is not the first time Nasa and the West have disagreed over Kenya’s recent political developments.
The envoys had tried to intervene as the Opposition escalated its demands for “irreducible minimums” before the repeat election last year.
In the days before Nasa decided to challenge the result of the August 8 election at the Supreme Court, the UK, the US, and the European Union exerted pressure on opposition leaders to seek a solution in court rather than the mass protests called by Mr Odinga’s camp.
The coalition had also claimed that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was being influenced by foreign envoys in the run-up to the October 26 repeat presidential election.
The allegation was contained in the opposition’s response to a petition filed at the Supreme Court by activists challenging the re-election of President Kenyatta and its accompanying affidavit by the coalition’s co-principal Musalia Mudavadi.