Anti-government protests: Kenya's William Ruto calls for six-day talks from Monday

President Ruto puts the public seal on a copy of the new IEBC law at KICC in Nairobi on July 9, 2024. He has called for national talks. 

Photo credit: PSCU

President William Ruto has announced six-day talks from Monday, July 15, 2024, as he battles to arrest the recent wave of anti-government protests.

The dialogue, he announced on Tuesday, was agreed upon after consulting Azimio leaders, led by Raila Odinga (Orange Democratic Movement) and Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper party).

He said the multi-sectoral forum would involve 150 representatives from various sectors, and would focus on various issues affecting the country, including poor governance, corruption, tribalism, youth unemployment and ballooning public debt. 

In a bid to appease the youth who been demanding his removal from State House, the Head of State said at least 50 seats at the forum would be reserved young people.

The remaining 100 slots will be taken up by other interest group— including the religious community, civil society, the professional groups, as well as the political parties.

However, he said, each represented group would have to pay their delegates as the government would not sponsor the forum "in the spirit of cutting costs". 

“We've agreed that to bring the country together, we will move ahead with the multi-sectorial forum,” he said after inking the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2024 at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.

The president said that the forum is mandated to come with a proposals on how to move the country forward after intermittent paralysis caused by the demos, which had assumed a weekly schedule, hitting businesses and the economy hard. 

“We look forward to begin the forum on Monday. The various stakeholders will be required to submit their representatives by Friday this week.”

The talks were backed by Kenya’s opposition, led by Mr Odinga. 

“We've agreed that a dialogue is the way forward out of the crisis that we're having in our country,” Mr Odinga, who attended the bill-signing ceremony alongside a host of other leaders, said.

Mr Odinga said the country was ready to hear the grievances that the youth have been raising in the recent days.

“We need to start by identifying and secondly coming up with solutions of these problems. We think that this forum will help us to move forward,” Mr Odinga said.

On his part, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua asked the youth to end their demonstrations and allow the government to address their issues.