Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Saturday (September 16) said they had collected 10 million signatures from Kenyans protesting the high cost of living, which he says will be deployed on an unstated course soon, but which he quickly clarified will not include going back to street protests.
At the same time, the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition gave President William Ruto, who clocked one year in office this week, a D minus, a grade representing dismal performance with key failures across sectors as measured against manifesto promises, especially those that had specific delivery times.
The 10 million signatures, he said, will be used to make decisions regarding the action to be taken by the coalition.
“As you know we have been collecting signatures and they are enough. We know what we will do with them. We will not tell the people to go back to the streets. They will come back to do something else and I do not want to speak but watch this space,” Mr Odinga said in Karen, Nairobi, yesterday, flanked by key Azimio principals led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.
The Odinga-led team had poured to the streets over a four-month period to protest runaway cost of basic commodities, before agreeing to bipartisan talks co-chaired by Mr Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah.
Cost of living, the reconstitution of the electoral commission, and an audit of the 2022 presidential elections have been listed as some of the priority areas for the talks that have since been approved by both Houses of Parliament.
The opposition also accused the Kenya Kwanza administration of increasing the price of fuel amid the rising cost of living and increased taxation.
“The cost of living has risen and they have recently increased the price of fuel which has led to the increase in the price of commodities. The Kenya Federation of Employers is now speaking on behalf of the employers. Where is the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU)? The COTU boss is nowhere to be seen,” said Mr Odinga.
During the Azimio Council meeting yesterday, the coalition’s economic experts said several small businesses have closed down due to challenges in servicing loans, and the proliferation of informal businesses including hawking.
This, the opposition said, was due to lack of working capital and increased inflation which had breached the 7.5 per cent mark and currently stands at nine per cent.
They also observed that the drop in prices of some food commodities can be attributed to the heavy rains and should not be used by the government as proof that they have managed the cost of living.
The statement by Mr Odinga came days after the announcement of new fuel prices that crossed the record Sh200 per litre mark for the first time in history, with up to Sh33 price increase for kerosene, mostly used by poor households for cooking and lighting.
In Nairobi, fuel now goes for Sh211.64 for petrol, diesel at Sh200.99 and kerosene at Sh202.61.
In education, President Ruto had promised a one year paid internship for all university graduates, access to affordable education and free sanitary towels, but the opposition said the government had increased the cost of education up to 225 per cent.
Economic experts from the opposition added that the government has frustrated healthcare workers and the NHIF has collapsed after it failed to meet its obligations.
“They are now moving towards the establishment of an emergency fund instead of improving primary healthcare at the grassroots. The healthcare workers have also failed to show up to work especially in the rural areas and there is high corruption especially at Kemsa,” said the team in a statement.
The opposition has also faulted the housing programme implemented by the Kenya Kwanza government—pegged at 1.5 per cent of an employee’s salary, uncapped, and a similar amount matched by the employer—over the opaque nature of the process and the limited access to mortgage finance as a result of the soaring interest rates that are charged by banks.
“This regime also promised they will increase the number of mortgages from 30,000 to one million but they have failed to achieve it,” the opposition said.
In terms of legal and constitutional progress, the opposition accused President Ruto of being overly focused on silencing his critics.
Mr Odinga’s team stated that 70 people had died as a result of police brutality during the demonstrations and that 128 cases of extra-judicial killings had been reported in the country.
Referring to the protests by Uasin Gishu parents over the botched scholarship programme, Mr Odinga’s team said the government had allowed the protests to go on, but meted out violence on protesters.
“We saw them threatening a businessman in Western Kenya that he should withdraw cases against the government. That is obstruction of justice. They told activist Okiya Omtatah that he is wasting time filing cases in court because they will defeat him. That means they know the outcome of the cases. He even recognised another faction of the Jubilee party that is trying to remove the party from the opposition,” Mr Odinga said.