, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 10 – The meeting ended in an exchange of hugs and loud banter that belied the grandstanding that had characterised the round-table discussions between representatives of President Uhuru Kenyatta and the National Super Alliance presidential flag-bearer Raila Odinga.
In what was reminiscent of a parliamentary sitting, the Members of Parliament in their ‘proxy’ roles dominated discussion in what was meant to be a consultative forum, hosted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, for presidential candidates on the printing of the presidential ballots following Friday’s High Court order that it be tendered afresh.
At one point the Leader of the Majority in the Senate Kithure Kindiki even appealed to IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati for “protection” from fellow Senator James Orengo.
That’s not to say that the presidential candidates who were present didn’t hold their own.
The Thirdway Alliance’s Ekuru Aukot took both President Kenyatta and Odinga to task for not bothering to show up in person for the meeting. “Why didn’t they send their proxies to pick their nomination certificates and yet these are the same people who will go out there to castigate the judiciary and the IEBC.”
And to which Leader of the Majority in the National Assembly Adan Duale responded: “Our candidate is the Head of State so you’ll not see him here. There are candidates who have a lot of time. Our candidate doesn’t have time, he’s the Head of State.”
Also representing the Head of State was his party Secretary General Raphael Tuju who made it clear that the President had no interest in participating in a process where the candidates decided for themselves who would be awarded the presidential ballot printing tender.
An act which both sides of the aisle, in a rare show of unanimity agreed would be tantamount to usurping the mandate of the IEBC. “As rightly pointed out, it is not for us to dictate to you what to do. Your powers are well defined in the constitution and nobody is going to usurp those powers,” Orengo stated.
“We have no business being here. We should be out campaigning,” is how Kindiki put it.
All parties represented at Monday’s meeting were also in agreement that the August 8 election date was non-negotiable. “We are committed, as a coalition, to the holding of the elections on August 8 this year, including the presidential elections,” Orengo stated.
There was however no love lost between Tuju and Orengo with the latter informing the former right off the bat that: “Be very careful when you talk to me. Be very careful.”
Aukot had earlier in the meeting – before the NASA team’s late appearance – presented a few non-negotiables of his own including the destruction of the templates, type sets and any extra printing material, once the tendered numbers of ballots are pressed, in full view of the candidates’ representatives.
He also demanded that an international company, “with end to end visibility tracking system,” monitor the movement of the ballots.
In addition to which he demanded the IEBC renegotiate the terms of the Letter of Credit it entered into with Al Ghurair in view of Friday’s High Court decision to ensure the tax payer doesn’t get a raw deal.
Dida kept his eyes shut for significant portion of the meeting deferring his comments until he launched into a prayer before describing the gathering as, “shameful.”
He said what Jubilee and NASA were bickering about confounded him as numerous printers can be found along Kirinyaga road.
IEBC came under fire themselves with a majority of those gathered accusing them of convening a rudderless meeting which led Aukot to storm out, “in search of votes,” after stating that he felt, “used and abused,” by the Commission.
He was, at the end of the meeting, still found along the hotel hallway and seen taking a selfie with fellow presidential candidates Dida and Japheth Kavinga.