Kenya's Odinga says demos to resume as talks with govt continue

Friday April 14 2023
Kenya’s opposition leader Raila

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila addressing a gathering in Nairobi on April 13, 2023 where he announced that public protests will resume after the end of Ramadhan. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG


The leader of Kenya’s opposition alliance, Azimio la Umoja, Raila Odinga on Thursday announced that the coalition will resume anti-government protests after the holy month of Ramadhan.

He said the protests will run parallel with the bi-partisan talks with the government side, citing “signs of intransigence” from the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition.

Addressing the opposition coalition’s first town hall meeting in Nairobi, the opposition chief took issue with President William Ruto’s camp, accusing the government of trying to determine what his side is to take to the discussion table.

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

Dr Ruto’s side insists that its team of negotiators will strictly engage the opposition team on the matter of the reconstitution of the electoral commission and will not be drawn into other concerns raised by the opposition.

“Let dialogue run parallel with the protests. We are waiting for the end of Ramadhan,” Mr Odinga said.

A police officer aims gun at a car that carried journalists

A police officer aims his gun at a car that carried journalists during protests called by Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga on March 30, 2023 as a man believed to be a plainclothes policeman lobs a tear gas canister into the empty vehicle. PHOTO | RAPHAEL NJOROGE | NMG

Date to be announced

He said he will soon announce the date for the resumption of the weekly protests after Ramadhan which ends in a week’s time.

Mr Odinga, who was addressing a meeting involving human rights activists, faith-based organisations, student leaders, trade unions, farmers' associations, small businesses and other civil society organisations, maintained that their concerns are fundamental, adding that the people cannot be left out.

Police on horseback patrol a street in Nairobi

Police on horseback patrol a street in Nairobi on March 20, 2023 as protestors lit bonfires during protests called by Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga. PHOTO | FILE | NATION

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“Our wish is to achieve the overhaul of our state of affairs with the involvement of the people from all segments of our society at every stage and we will engage in the bipartisan process to which we have sent very able representatives,” said Mr Odinga.

“But the people must not be left out or behind. We are not going into this dialogue for deals in smoke-filled rooms. We are going into this to secure and safeguard fundamental, life and death gains for the people and the country.”

Protesters run away from police officers

Protesters run away from police officers as demonstrators block a highway in Nairobi on March 30, 2023 during a protest against the government and high food prices. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP

High cost of living

The former Kenyan prime minister, who spoke after Kenya National Civil Society Centre Executive Director Suba Churchill read out the resolutions of the day, appeared to respond to demands to resume the protests due to a high cost of living among other issues affecting Kenyans.

“The people observed worrying signs of lack of seriousness from the Kenya Kwanza regime to an honest, inclusive and credible process of national dialogue and have called on the Azimio leadership to immediately resume maandamano (protests) after the end of Ramadhan,” Mr Churchill said.

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The group called for the need to have a credible, inclusive, independent and participatory national dialogue process that represents different shades of the opinions of the Kenyan people.

“The parties to the national dialogue shall include representatives of various citizen formations, the Azimio Coalition and the Kenya Kwanza coalition and have the final outcome including the narrative report that may include proposals for constitutional, legal, policy and administrative measures be subjected to the necessary and meaningful participation of the people.”

People run for cover after police threw tear gas

People run for cover after police threw tear gas at protestors in Nairobi, Kenya on January 20, 2023. Opposition leader Raila Odinga had called the protests to pressure the government to deal with the rising cost of living. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

Force of law

The agreement emerging from the national dialogue, they noted, should be given the force of law without any alteration.

Mr Odinga insisted that throughout the talks, they expect the people to stand on guard and ensure it is about them and the country.

“That is why we are gathered here today so that people can consult and engage and be watchful. We must refuse to be party to the subterfuges of the past that glossed over and compromised on fundamental issues for expediency,” Mr Churchill said.

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga addressing his supporters in Nairobi on March 30, 2023 during mass demonstrations. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

Mr Odinga’s running mate in last year’s presidential election, Martha Karua, maintained that the planned talks should be on neutral ground and should not be restricted to parliament.

“We need a neutral ground where we can have a discussion on equal footing,” she said.

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Ms Karua insisted that all their four concerns have to be addressed including immediate steps to lower the cost of food, fuel and school fees, opening and audit of election servers at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), restructuring, reconstitution of the electoral agency and the reinstatement of four IEBC commissioners and an end to the poaching of Azimio MPs by the government side.

“Elections must be accountable and verifiable and that’s why we are insisting that the servers must be opened. Do not ask us whether our information is accurate. Open servers and the truth will be known once and for all,” Ms Karua stated.