Kenya's opposition calls rally ahead of talks with government

Wednesday April 12 2023
Kenya’s veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga

Kenya’s veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga (left) during the naming of his coalition's parliamentary group for bipartisan talks with the government on April 6, 2023. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI |NMG



Kenya's main opposition party on Tuesday announced plans for a public rally but said it remained committed to easing political tension through dialogue, after anti-government protests turned violent last month.

Azimio la Umoja, the party of veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, said it would hold "direct engagements" with the public including a rally in Nairobi as it prepares for talks with the government.

Last month, three people died and businesses and property were torched and vandalised in three days of chaotic street demonstrations against the government.

Read: Kenya's mass protests: A long and rich history

Odinga, who claims that last year's presidential election was stolen from him, called off the protests after President William Ruto suggested they enter into talks to discuss their concerns.


Town hall meeting

Azimio said it would hold a town hall meeting on Thursday followed by a public rally on Sunday "to explain to the people where we are and the upcoming course of action".

Read: Kenya protests: The give and take in Raila, Ruto truce

"Azimio remains committed... to the spirit of the Easter deal that saw the two parties commit to dialogue," the party's executive council chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said in a statement.

It urged the government "to come to the table with clean hands, unclenched fists and a commitment to an honest and transparent process that engages all the issues bedevilling our country".

Ruto, whose election victory was upheld by the Supreme Court, has ruled out striking any alliance with Odinga, who has led street protests in the past over election losses he claimed were rigged.

Team for talks

Azimio has named a seven-member team for the talks but wants observers from outside parliament to be involved, something the government has ruled out.

Odinga has threatened to return to the street if Azimio is not satisfied with the process.

Read: Kenya protests: Police attack journalists

Kenya is viewed as a democratic anchor in East Africa and last month's protests drew international calls for restraint as riot police fired tear gas at protesters with places of worship being set aflame. 

Sunday's rally has been called at Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi, one of Kenya's most important public spaces, where in 1990 thousands gathered to usher in a new era of multiparty democracy, ending one-party rule.