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How Uhuru, Raila, struck deal on IEBC talks

Jubilee and Cord leaders on Tuesday agreed to start talks on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), in a move that could ease tension between the government and the opposition.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto hosted Cord leaders Raila Odinga and Moses Wetang’ula at State House, Nairobi, on Tuesday to resolve a stand-off over Madaraka Day celebrations.

The third Cord leader, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, did not attend the talks because he had travelled to China.

Mr Odinga, who had flown to a funeral in Narok, cut short his trip, excused himself and informed the mourners that he had to leave because the President had invited him to State House.

INVITATION TO NAKURU

During their meeting, President Kenyatta invited the Cord leaders to join him for the national celebrations at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on Wednesday.

The leaders also agreed that Cord would hold a peaceful rally at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, after the Madaraka Day celebrations.

Sources privy to the talks said that President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga agreed to form a 10-member team — five from each side — to start negotiations on Thursday on how to reconstitute the IEBC.

The leaders met after a luncheon hosted in honour of visiting South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

“Each side will name five members, comprising members of the Senate and National Assembly to start the talks,” said the source. The team will craft a framework, which will be used to resolve the issues which Cord has raised against the IEBC commissioners.

END PROTESTS

The agreement is likely to bring to an end the weekly protests organised by Cord against the IEBC that led to the deaths of three people in Kisumu and Homa Bay last week.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto have in the past criticised the demonstrations and urged Cord leaders to use the process set out in the Constitution in their quest to remove the nine IEBC bosses.

Cord has accused the commission of incompetence, partisanship and corruption. It has insisted that the nine commissioners, including chairman Issack Hassan must be removed before the next elections.

At State House, a source said both the Jubilee and Cord alliances are expected to have named their teams of five each by Thursday, in readiness for the negotiations.

“The negotiations will be done outside Parliament and reported back to their coalitions. After both sides have been satisfied with the way forward about the IEBC, that is when it will be taken to Parliament,” said the source.

‘INCONCLUSIVE DISCUSSIONS’

Speaking about the meeting on the floor of the Senate after the talks, Mr Wetang’ula said: “We have had good but inconclusive discussions with President Kenyatta and the Deputy President at State House on national issues, including the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.”

Later, a statement from State House said: “His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta today (Tuesday) hosted a State luncheon to honour visiting Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye. Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga attended the luncheon at President Kenyatta’s invitation.”

It was also understood that the meeting was meant to eliminate the possibility of violence in the capital because Kenya is hosting President Park of South Korea. The police had banned political and prayer rallies, a move which Cord had vowed to disobey.

CALL OFF RALLY

Sources said President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto had asked the Cord leaders to call off the rally and join them in Nakuru, but Mr Odinga said arrangements were too advanced for the rally to be cancelled. It was then that Mr Odinga and his team agreed to attend the Madaraka Day celebrations and thereafter fly back to Nairobi for the rally.

“The President invited Mr Odinga and Mr Wetang’ula to the national Madaraka Day celebrations to be held in Nakuru County,” State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu said in a statement.

On Tuesday evening, Siaya Senator James Orengo said the Uhuru Park rally would proceed on Wednesday as planned.