Kenya's opposition suspends protests after deal with government

Thursday May 04 2023
Kenya's Azimio la Umoja Opposition Team

Kenya’s opposition coalition ‘Azimio la Umoja’ led by their leader Raila Odinga (C) at a news conference in Nairobi on May 2, 2023. They announced on May 3, 2023 that they were prepared to go back to the bipartisan talks with the country’s government. PHOTO | LUIS TATO | AFP


The Kenyan government and the opposition have struck a compromise to revive stalled bipartisan talks and avert protests planned for Thursday, even as the factions separately closed ranks on contentious proposals.

The Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya on Wednesday called off Thursday’s protests after the ruling Kenya Kwanza-led government withdrew Eldas MP Adan Keynan from its bipartisan talks team.

In the country’s national assembly earlier, Azimio and Kenya Kwanza had closed ranks on proposals to change the constitution to create the offices of the leader of official opposition and Prime Minister.

Wednesday evening, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka made the initial offer that they were ready to stand down the demonstrations provided their political rivals ceded to their demands.

“We in Azimio la Umoja One Kenya announce, on a without prejudice basis, that we are prepared to go back to the bipartisan talks with our opposite side and are prepared to stand down the demonstration scheduled for Thursday, provided that Kenya Kwanza recuses Adan Keynan from the bipartisan committee and immediately announces his replacement,” he said.

In a swift rejoinder, Kenya Kwanza leadership in parliament responded by removing MP Keynan from the committee. In his place, Saku MP Dido Raso was picked.


Read: Kenya opposition calls rally ahead of talks

“As we have always stated, we are willing to bend backwards for the sake of the progress of the country, national unity and stability of the nation,” said Kenya’s National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa.

Ready for discussions

Azimio’s committee co-chair Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said they are now ready to resume the discussions.

“Our objection to Keynan was a matter of principle and we were clear from the word go on this issue,” he said.

Mr Edwin Sifuna, a member of the bipartisan committee who is also the secretary-general of the opposition ODM party, said they welcome the move by Kenya Kwanza.

“Political processes are dynamic and so it is not anything unusual. All in good time, we will know more. Let us leave it at that but the last thing people would want is things that spook, disrupt or undermine a process,” former Laikipia County governor Ndiritu Muriithi said.

While Mr Ichung’wah and Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi supported calls to establish the opposition leader and prime minister offices, they differed on the route to amend the constitution to create them.

In December last year, President William Ruto wrote to the speakers of both the national assembly and senate to consider a constitutional amendment to set up the office of the leader of the opposition. The proposal is currently being considered by the Justice and Legal Affairs committee.

Mr Odinga has previously threatened to oppose a bill seeking to establish the office and termed President Ruto’s proposal hypocritical since he opposed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that had similar proposals.