Azimio to resume Maandamano after Ramadhan, Raila Odinga says

Raila Odinga

Azimio leader Raila Odinga delivering his speech at Ufungamano House in Nairobi on April 13, 2023.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga on Thursday, April 13 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, citing “signs of intransigence” from the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition.

Addressing the coalition’s first town hall meeting at Ufungamano, Nairobi, the opposition chief took issue with President William Ruto’s camp, accusing the government of trying to determine for the coalition (Azimio) what to take to the discussion table.

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

“Mazungumzo yafanyike na maandamano sambamba. Tunasubiri Ramadhan iishe. Dawa ya moto ni moto (Let dialogue run parallel with the protests. We are waiting for the end of Ramadhan),” Mr Odinga charged.

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

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader who was addressing the multi-sectoral leaders meeting involving human rights activists, faith-based organisations, students’ leadership, trade unions, farmers' associations, small businesses, and other civil society organisations maintained that their concerns were fundamental adding that the people cannot be left out.

“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.”

The former 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 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) immediately after the end of Ramadhan,” Mr Churchill read.

The group called for the need to have a credible, inclusive, independent, and participatory National Dialogue Process that represents different shades of the opinion 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.”

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,” he said.

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua maintained that the planned talks should be on neutral grounds and not restricted to parliament.

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

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 IEBC election servers, restructuring, reconstitution of the IEBC, and the reinstatement of the four IEBC commissioners and an end to the poaching of MPs to UDA 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.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka said the Kenya Kwanza side was not committed to the dialogue.

“They are clearly not committed to the dialogue. You can always know when somebody is not serious. You cannot say that out of the concerns we have raised including the critical high cost of living and the audit of the election servers, you can only discuss the IEBC issue. That’s not right and we cannot allow it to happen,” Mr Musyoka said.

He went on: “There’s a saying that goes that if you can't dance with them with brilliance then baffle them with bullshit. They may think they are bullshitting us but they will be in for it.”

The former Vice President said the Kenya Kwanza regime was failing Kenyans, adding that they will not sit back and watch the country go down.

“I can't remember any single time when a government was unable to pay its employees,” he lamented.

DAP-K leader Eugene Wamalwa, Azimio executive council chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, National Assembly Majority leader Opiyo Wandayi and Nairobi ODM Chairman George Aladwa said the bi-partisan talks cannot only be restricted to parliament.

“Sometimes the war is too serious to leave to the generals. Parliament alone may not solve the problems we have. We also ask Ruto to tell his subordinates including Gachagua to address Raila Odinga with respect.”

“We unveiled our negotiation team together as coalition leaders but the manner they unveiled their team was disrespectful and lack of good faith,” said Mr Wamalwa.

Mr Wandayi warned that the bipartisan talks will not be allowed to proceed unless it's opened up to include the civil society, Church, students unions, trade unions and the youth Movement.