PNU legislators warm up to Raila Published on March 14, 2008, 12:00 am By Standard Team Party of National Unity (PNU) hardliners, some of them President Kibakis most astute defenders, appear to be warming up to Mr Raila Odinga, the Prime minister-designate. Last night, it remained unclear whose initiative it was that led to the seemingly thawing of relations even as MPs continued displaying unity, with debate on the Presidential Speech starting in earnest. "Theres need to bond. We must be seen to be working together," a PNU MP told The Standard on condition of anonymity. While the scenario painted a picture of a crystallising coalition and a deliberate effort to bond, there were also questions over whether what was being witnessed wasnt mere political expediency at its best. Yet, the pattern that began emerging on Wednesday night with a high profile visit to the Karen home of the ODM leader and what initially looked like a coincidental lunchtime encounter at Nairobis Grand Regency Hotel appeared to suggest a thawing of what was hitherto very frosty relations. There also appeared to be genuine desire to unravel the truth after President Kibaki last night appointed a commission of inquiry into the December 27 General Election, with particular emphasis on the presidential race. A gazette notice signed at State House, Nairobi, by President Kibaki stated that the Commission of Inquiry would be headed by Judge Johann Kriegler, a South African, as chairman. In just under 24 hours, Raila had hosted or dined and wined with, among others, Ms Martha Karua (Justice minister), Mr Kiraitu Murungi (Energy minister), Government Chief Whip, Mr George Thuo, and Imenti Central MP, Mr Gitobu Imanyara. Thuo, Kiraitu, Imanyara and Saboti MP, Mr Eugene Wamalwa, together with a number of other cross-party legislators, were at Railas home where they are understood to have tucked into a sumptuous dinner washed down with several rounds of drinks amid animated discussion. On Thursday, Karua and Raila had lunch at the Grand Regency Hotel and both headed for Parliament to join other MPs for the afternoon session. They left the same way they came separately. President Kibakis lead negotiator at the UN-backed mediation talks chaired by Dr Kofi Annan, Karua spared no barbs for the Orange party, threw brickbats at the international community and emerged as the most resolute defender of the status quo. Foreign Affairs minister, Mr Moses Wetangula, and ODM-Kenya MP, Mr Mutula Kilonzo, completed Karuas hard-line axis. But the frost has thawed considerably. "Yes, I had lunch with the prime minister-designate," the Gichugu MP told The Standard when reached on the telephone. "He is going to be a senior Government official and there is need for us to work closely." In a radical departure from her perceived conservative posture, the minister said there was need to move forward as a sign of commitment to fully have the Peace Accord implemented. Sources close to Raila described the meeting between the two as "warm and cordial", in an apparent sign that both sides of the divide have seen the need to work as a team if the envisaged grand coalition is to become a reality. Reformers unite Interestingly, Raila, Imanyara, Kiraitu and Karua together with Mr Paul Muite, Mr James Orengo, Prof Anyang Nyongo, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, Mr Joe Ager and Oki Ooko Ombaka, who has since died, have previously shared a common background as reformists. Imanyara returns to the Raila fold just weeks after he was embarrassed at a State function. Muite and Kituyi lost in the General Election. Also in the liberation struggle were lawyer Mr Gibson Kamau Kuria and the late Wamalwa Kijana, who briefly served as Vice-President. Together, they successfully campaigned for the repeal of Section 2(A) of the Constitution, paving way for the return to multi-party politics. In Parliament yesterday, MPs underscored the need for a united front to overcome tribal jingoism in the proposed coalition Government. Dr Sally Kosgei (Aldai, ODM) said: "We have a chance to go down in history as the people who let Kenya sink or to seize the opportunity and salvage the future by preaching unity and reconciliation." Mr Aden Duale (Dujis, ODM) said the country stood on the brink and MPs had no choice but to spearhead healing and reconciliation by burying their differences. "I pay tribute to Kibaki and Raila and we must borrow a leaf from them and forge practical steps that will take Kenya to the next level," he said. Prof Philip Kaloki (Kibwezi, ODM-K) said it was time to unite the country by embracing equity and equality through fair sharing of national resources. Mrs Millie Odhiambo (Nominated, ODM) added to the peace appeal by challenging MPs to overcome tribal and gender prejudice, saying: "Kenya is looking for heroes and heroines of equity and equality." She stunned the House by disclosing how her mother was shot and injured during the post-election violence. "My mother is a Luo, my father a Suba and my husband a Zulu. What tribe would my child be when I have it?" she asked. Earlier, Mr Najib Balala (Mvita, ODM) called for the disbandment of the Electoral Commission of Kenya for allegedly bungling the tallying of presidential votes. "The violence erupted because people felt their hopes had been shattered," the ODM member said. He also lobbied for the reform of the police to promote democracy and instill confidence in institutions. Balala urged Parliament to seize the opportunity to restore hope and pass the two crucial Bills to legalise the power-sharing deal. But he ran into trouble with the Government side when he said "anyone who opposes the Bills risks a return to violence". "Anyone who obstructs these Bills is an enemy of the State," he added. But Mr Peter Munya (Tigania East, PNU) rose on a point of order, and asked why Balala was "threatening and intimidating" members. "This is a debating chamber where freedom of expression is enshrined. Even though we support the peace accord, the trend the member is taking can promote authoritarianism," Munya said. Earlier, the ODM leadership asked MPs to back the Bills for the power-sharing deal to succeed. Nyongo, the party secretary-general, said the Bills being debated in Parliament deserved backing from MPs and even civil servants. They are the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) and the National Accord and Reconciliation Bills both published by the Government. The agreements were signed in a historic deal to end the political crisis triggered by the disputed December 27 presidential election. "Kenyans hopes are pinned on restoration of peace and the success of implementation of the accord and the smooth working of the coalition," Nyongo said. He added: "President Kibaki and ODM leader, Mr Raila Odinga, are equally responsible for guaranteeing the success of National Accord and Reconciliation Bill that Parliament must pass into law." The Bill, Nyongo said, was crucial to the success of the proposed coalition. "Any attempt by anybody to ridicule this noble initiative by introducing hierarchy relationship between the two parties or Kibaki and Raila goes contrary to the spirit and letter of the grand coalition," he added at a press conference at Orange House.