Kenya’s President William Ruto has called on the opposition to give talks with the government a chance, while his main opponent, Raila Odinga, has urged his followers to continue protesting over electoral reforms and the high cost of living.
Thousands of Kenyans participated in three days of protests in late March, marked by clashes between protesters and police, stemming from accusations of fraud in the country’s August presidential election, in which Ruto narrowly defeated Odinga.
Odinga had earlier announced that the opposition would resume protests after the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, to coincide with talks between the opposition and the government.
Ruto’s ruling coalition has defended the fairness of the election and called for the protests to stop, raising doubts about the opposition’s sincerity in participating in talks.
Ruto appealed for peaceful dialogue, saying, “Why don’t we seek what we leaders want without chaos, no destruction of property, so that we can attend to the citizens’ demands, while we discuss what we want?”
However, Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) Alliance and Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) alliance have differing opinions on the content and participants of the talks.
Kenya Kwanza wants the talks to involve only lawmakers and discuss only the selection of electoral officials, while Azimio says others should also take part and the talks should review the 2022 elections and discuss measures to address the cost of living.
It should be recalled that in late March, Odinga temporarily suspended the protests after an appeal from Ruto, but he has now reiterated his call for protests to resume, stating, “If we don’t hear from Ruto next week, when Ramadan ends, we are going back to the streets.”
The situation remains tense in Kenya as the government and the opposition navigate talks and protests in an effort to address electoral reforms and economic challenges.