Raila hands Ruto new protests warning

Azimio leaders

Democratic Action Party-Kenya leader Eugene Wamalwa reads a statement while flanked by other leaders in the Opposition Azimio coalition at SKM Command Centre in Karen, Nairobi on May 4, 2023. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Azimio leader Raila Odinga yesterday warned that the Opposition coalition would return to the streets if the government side does not show goodwill or honesty in the bi-partisan talks to resolve the August 2022 post-election stalemate.

Mr Odinga issued the warning yesterday as details of how behind-the-scenes manoeuvres by both sides culminated in the calling off of anti-government protests emerged.

Nation understands President William Ruto prevailed upon the Opposition to call off the protests, partly because of the high-profile visitors currently in the country.

Some of the notable figures who have visited Kenya in the last seven days are Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgiev, World Meteorological Organisation Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki, International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) President Alvaro Lario, and Canadian Foreign minister Melanie Joly.

The two sides also reportedly agreed to fast-track the proposals to change the Constitution to create the offices of the Leader of Official Opposition and Prime Minister on top of withdrawing Eldas MP Adan Keynan from the bi-partisan committee as had been demanded by the Opposition.

Addressing the press yesterday, the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader demanded that the talks be conducted within 30 days, down from the 90 days proposed by the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance, accusing the Ruto team of using delaying tactics to fizzle out the momentum in the nationwide protests.

The Opposition further insisted that the talks have to be extended outside of Parliament to allow for the participation of other players outside the two Houses.

President William Ruto and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida

President William Ruto and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida walk to the podium for a joint press conference after a meeting at State House in Nairobi on May 3, 2023.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

“We will not hesitate to resort to alternative measures at the slightest indication of lack of goodwill and honesty on Kenya Kwanza side. If, through intransigence, delaying tactics and other aspects of stonewalling Kenya Kwanza forces us to abandon the talks, there shall be no turning back,” the coalition said in a statement read by Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) leader Eugene Wamalwa.

Resumption of talks

MPs Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) and George Murugara (Tharaka), the co-chairs of the 14-member bi-partisan team last evening sent out text messages informing the members of the resumption of talks today. Insiders in Mr Odinga’s camp told Nation the visits by Mr Scholz and Mr Guterres forced the two leaders to compromise.

Azimio National Executive Council chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said the Opposition agreed to reciprocate after Kenya Kwanza side agreed to withdraw Mr Keynan from the talks.

Other sources indicated that talks to call off the protests started two weeks ago. An ally of Dr Ruto, who did not wish to be named, claimed that it was Mr Odinga’s side who reached out to the President to have the protests called off. The source claimed that the Opposition demanded seven cabinet secretary positions as well as a push for the former premier to be appointed to a powerful position at the Africa Union.

“The e President termed the two demands as impossible as he already has a government in place and he was not ready to meddle in AU affairs,” said the source.

With no deal agreed upon, Azimio leaders vowed to continue with the protests. 

But yesterday, Mr Odinga reiterated that his coalition was not interested in power-sharing with Kenya Kwanza, which he said came to power through a “civilian coup”.

A member of Kenya Kwanza bi-partisan team yesterday suggested they agreed to resume talks to keep the opposition busy and away from the streets.

“We have always insisted that it has to be parliamentary. They know that is the only option available but they have resorted to playing to the public gallery through unrealistic demands,” said the source.

Reporting by Moses Nyamori, Collins Omulo and Samwel Owino