Stalemate over fresh poll takes toll as diplomats and clerics step in (Kenya)


By Staff | The East African October 3, 2017

Kenyans have started paying a hefty price arising from the ongoing stalemate over the fresh presidential election slated for October 26.

The prolonged political activities have also had adverse effects on the economy, with business leaders calling for a speedy resolution.

“As it is now, the political activities have crippled business activities,” Mr Kiprono Kittony, the national chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said on Friday.

Many businesses have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, putting their customers as well as suppliers in limbo.

Unless the political temperatures ease, this could lead to a systematic disruption of the supply chain for basic consumer goods.

Besides the business community, among the first to feel the pinch are civil servants who have had their domestic and international travel allowances reduced to raise money to pay for what the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Mr Henry Rotich, calls “emerging priorities”.

One of these is the repeat election that is only 26 days away.

Sanctions

Mr Rotich has sent to Parliament a supplementary budget that he hopes MPs will approve even as political leaders take hardline positions that have compelled the diplomatic community and religious leaders to seek an end to the stalemate.

On Friday, diplomats from Europe and the US held a meeting with opposition leader Raila Odinga and other Nasa leaders.

Although it was not immediately clear what they discussed, sources said that the diplomats are likely to impose sanctions against leaders from both the Jubilee Party and Nasa who adopt hardline positions.

After the talks with the diplomats, Mr Odinga met Anglican Church of Kenya clerics who later asked the opposition to call off demonstrations and instead embrace dialogue.

Led by Bishop Jackson ole Sapit, the ACK clerics also asked the ruling Jubilee party to shelve its proposed amendments to the election laws that it introduced in Parliament on Thursday.

Addressing the press, Mr Odinga said he will take part in the fresh election if only Jubilee can drop the proposed amendments.

And while campaigning in western town of Bungoma, the incumbent President Kenyatta said Mr Odinga should call off the protests set to start on Monday and instead prepare to face him in the election.

It is yet to be seen if the two leaders will close ranks and end the stalemate that has put the rest of Kenya on the slow lane and left the country in the international spotlight.

Only this week, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, who heads the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development (Unctad), warned that Kenya is facing a reputation risk globally due to the political impasse.

Considering that tourism is one of the key sources of Kenya’s foreign exchange, a dent in the country’s reputation abroad could expose it to a reduction in the number of tourist arrivals, which will further hurt the economy.

Already, Mr Rotich has warned that the country is facing “challenges with huge financial implications” that have emerged since the start of the current financial year on July 1.

“Given that the economy has not generated new resources to finance the emerging needs,” he told MPs in a brief summary of the mini-Budget, “we are proposing to re-organise the planned expenditures for the financial year”.

Austerity

In the brief dated September 25, he has also asked accounting officers to reduce their spending in a series of austerity measures on 13 areas.

For instance, budgets for domestic travel and subsistence costs have been reduced by 20 per cent while all others, such as routine maintenance, purchase of vehicles, training, hospitality, advertising and several others have been slashed by 75 per cent.

He is also seeking the reduction of development expenditure by Ksh30.6 billion ($296.5m).

In the mini-budget, the bulk of the re-allocations are to the Free Day Secondary Education programme Ksh24.7 billion ($239.3m), the electoral agency Ksh9.95 billion ($96.4m), the Interior Ministry Ksh4.62 billion ($44.7m), the National Intelligence Service Ksh3.15 billion ($30.5m) and the Kenya Defence Forces Ksh1.8 billion ($17.4m).

Amendments

It is instructive that the allocations to the electoral agency IEBC, the Interior Ministry under which the Police Service falls, the NIS and KDF could be election-related expenses.

Although Mr Odinga appeared to back down when he said he would take part in the fresh election if Jubilee shelves the proposed changes to the election law, there is no guarantee that new hurdles will not emerge on the road to October 26.

Jubilee, for instance, has not indicated that it will drop the amendments.

If anything, President Kenyatta on Friday justified the changes, saying they were in line with the ruling of the Supreme Court and were part of what Mr Odinga was pushing for.

“There is no wrong in Parliament executing its mandate,” he said.

He also challenged Opposition MPs to take part in the debate on the floor of the House.

Dialogue

As part of efforts to unlock the stalemate and pave the way for a smooth fresh presidential election, diplomats have started holding meetings behind the scenes with key members of both the Jubilee Party and the National Super Alliance.

The diplomats, together with the head of the European Union Election Observation Mission Kenya, Ms Marietje Schaake, held talks with Mr Odinga in Nairobi.

“We appreciate the keen interest in the Kenyan electoral process that the US, EU and UK have taken.

“Our meeting in which we exchanged views on the country’s political situation proved to be very fruitful,” Mr Odinga said on his Facebook page after the meeting attended by Mr Musalia Mudavadi, and Senator James Orengo among others.

IEBC

A spokesman for the Jubilee Party told the Saturday Nation that he was aware the party had been approached by the diplomats and said the President’s party is ready to meet them when called upon to do so.

“We believe the issue is still with Nasa. We are being called into these meetings and we don’t object.

“Even with the IEBC, we had been called into the meeting and did not object to anything being added to the agenda,” the source said.

A member of the diplomatic corps said their efforts were aimed at getting everyone “to agree on the way forward” so that the repeat election can happen in a credible manner.

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