President Ruto: I’m ready for talks in interest of Kenyans

President William Ruto

President William Ruto. He has agreed to conditional talks but vowed he will not be blackmailed by threats of violence. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto has agreed to conditional talks but vowed he will not be blackmailed by threats of violence.

The Head of State said he is ready for talks within the law and the constitution about the “destiny of our nation” but declared he will resist anarchy as the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga leads anti-government protests today.

“I am ready to engage with any leader if we are discussing the future of our country, the destiny of our nation, in a constitutional, legal manner,” the President told a prayer rally yesterday in Kapsabet, Nandi County.

“But we are not going to engage in anarchy, you are not going to threaten us with ultimatums and violence. We will be rewarding impunity if we were to succumb to ultimatums and chaos. We will not,” he added, even as he attacked Mr Odinga, portraying him as a leader with a long history of leading protests.

The President, however, declared he will not massage egos of leaders who are out to pursue their own selfish interests, insisting any dialogue must be to further public interest.

The President spoke amid rising calls for him to dialogue with Mr Odinga, with catholic bishops the latest to urge reconciliation.

Cost of living

Opposition leaders have demanded the President lowers the cost of living, stops the ongoing recruitment of electoral commissioners to facilitate a bi-partisan process and opens electoral servers to audit last year’s presidential elections.

President Ruto dismissed Azimio’s demands to halt the process of recruiting Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Commissioners.

“That he (Mr Odinga) wants to decide who will appoint the IEBC? See, he doesn’t want the law, he doesn’t want the constitution, he doesn’t want the Law Society of Kenya to appoint people in IEBC. He doesn’t want religious leaders to appoint people. He doesn’t want Public Service Commission. He doesn’t want Parliamentary Service Commission. He doesn’t want political parties to decide. He wants to decide himself against the constitution and that is anarchy,” claimed President Ruto.

He assured Kenyans that his administration will protect their businesses and property.

“I want to tell you that the police will do their work in accordance with the law and constitution. Our police are professional people, they are going to ensure that the right of everybody is protected. The rights of those who want to protest and the rights of those who want to go about their businesses, jobs, taking children to school and go about their lives uninterrupted. That is the job of police and I have confidence in our police men and women because I have told them that I do not need them to help with the politics. They need to concentrate on their mandate given to them by the constitution to protect the lives of every citizen,” said President Ruto.

The President’s allies, however, stuck to their hard-line positions, accusing Mr Odinga of attempting to blackmail the Head of State into a handshake, such as the one he reached with former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said he will not allow any arrangement akin to the March 2018 handshake between Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta. He told the President that in the event of such a political truce, he will have a problem with him (Head of State), a veiled reference to the hard-line position that Dr Ruto, as Deputy President, took against Mr Kenyatta. Dr Ruto constantly attacked the handshake deal during the presidential election campaigns.

“Raila Odinga is fond of using other means to find himself in the government and if we allow him in this administration, he will mess us. If he uses other means to join this government and messes everything, I’ll be held responsible. I’ll ensure that no handshake takes place and if you, the President, has such a plan, you must be ready to deal with me because we cannot accept handshake,” Mr Gachagua cautioned the President.

‘Violence and anarchy’

President Ruto said the time for the former Prime Minister to hold the country hostage with “violence and anarchy” is long gone and it will not happen under his watch.

However, Azimio has maintained the protests will be peaceful and also vowed Mr Odinga has no interest in joining the Kenya Kwanza administration.

Like the DP, other leaders accompanying the President roundly attacked Mr Odinga and sought to portray him as an anarchist. They also alleged that the protests were sponsored by people keen to undermine the government.

“My brother Uhuru Kenyatta, please Mr President, this country was too nice to you, we made you a king for the 10 years we voted for you. Please call your brother (Mr Odinga) to stop the demonstration nonsense,” said Mr Gachagua.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah claimed today's demonstrations are aimed at sabotaging the economic plans of President Ruto’s administration so that he could be seen as having let Kenyans down by not fulfilling his campaign pledges.

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi asked Kenyans to ignore Mr Odinga’s “declaration” of a public holiday saying that today will be a normal working day.