Raila Odinga calls off anti-government protests
Opposition leader Raila Odinga announced the cancellation of bi-weekly anti-government protests that were scheduled to continue for the fourth consecutive day on Monday.
The former Premier made this announcement during a press briefing at his Capitol Hill office in Nairobi.
This decision was made shortly after President William Ruto urged Odinga to call off the protests and allow a bipartisan parliamentary process to recruit commissioners for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which was one of the grievances that the opposition had raised against President Ruto’s administration.
Odinga declared that the Azimio team was prepared for discussions that would address the key issues they had brought up, stating that the decision to cancel the protests was made after extensive consultations, which included discussions with religious leaders and other stakeholders.
“William Ruto has issued what I regard as an important statement, we have met and listened to a lot of people, including religious leaders, they have implored us to give dialogue a chance,” he said.
“We acknowledge the olive branch on dialogue, this is a positive development. We agree to a balanced parliamentary proceed co-chaired by both sides, this committee must be done immediately, including all arrests and prosecution related to demos.”
He further indicated that the Azimio camp would be willing to resume the protests if there is no significant progress made within a week on the issues they have raised.
“We emphasize that rights to assemble are anchored in our constitution, we reserve our rights to call for demos if there is no meaningful outcome. We will resume after one week,” he added.
The Azimio camp has raised several concerns, including electoral justice, the high cost of living, attacks on the media, threats to democracy, and allegations of the ‘nuying’ of MPs.
One of the issues that the opposition has strongly criticized President Ruto’s administration over is the formation of the new IEBC. They accuse President Ruto of reconstituting the electoral commission without involving other stakeholders and interested parties.
However, in his earlier address, the President proposed that a bipartisan parliamentary process could lead to the creation of a selection panel for the IEBC, and that the recruitment of its commissioners could result in proposals that are legally and constitutionally binding.
“My suggestion is that this matter be handled by parliament so that we can agree on what the issue is and we can adjust as agreed and as necessary,” Ruto, who was flanked by his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, said.
“I urge my brother Raila Odinga to call off the demonstrations and to give this bipartisan approach a chance to take this country forward,” Ruto said, noting that the protests over the last two weeks have led to the killing of three people, including a police officer, and injuring at least 400 others.
The Azimio coalition also presented a list of requirements that the Kenya Kwanza administration should fulfill going forward with the dialogue. These demands include the unconditional release and withdrawal of charges against any Azimio supporter involved in the protests, as well as the reinstatement of the four IEBC commissioners who were dismissed after disowning the 2022 General Election results, which declared William Ruto as the president-elect.
In addition, the opposition stressed that addressing the issue of the high cost of living is crucial, and they have urged the government to reinstate the subsidies that were previously implemented during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime to alleviate the burden on Kenyans.
The Raila Odinga-led team expressed their readiness to engage in dialogue and work towards a peaceful resolution of the problems facing the country, starting as early as Monday.