Political adversaries in Kenya engage in renewed negotiations following widespread demonstrations
On Wednesday, the Kenyan government and opposition parties initiated fresh talks to address ongoing disputes resulting from violent protests against the high cost of living.
- In an effort to resolve a bitter political feud, opposition parties and the Kenyan government began new discussions on Wednesday.
- This comes after a series of violent protests against the high cost of living and calls for electoral reforms.
- Although the formal dialogue commenced in Nairobi, both sides firmly stated that there would be no power-sharing agreement to resolve the crisis.
Kenya’s government and the opposition initiated fresh talks on Wednesday with the aim of resolving a bitter political feud triggered by violent protests against the high cost of living and demands for electoral reforms.
However, even as the formal dialogue commenced in Nairobi, both sides reiterated that there would be no power-sharing agreement to address the crisis in the East African powerhouse.
Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga has organized 10 days of demonstrations against President William Ruto’s government since March. These protests have been marred by sometimes deadly clashes with the police.
According to official figures, at least 20 people have been killed in these clashes, although rights campaigners argue that the actual toll is much higher.
The unrest in one of the most stable democracies in the region has caused concern both domestically and internationally, sparking calls for mediation to end the standoff.
“Dialogue, peace, stability, and prosperity are not just matters concerning political parties. They are matters concerning Kenya,” said Kalonzo Musyoka, who heads Odinga’s delegation.
We will not negotiate for any form of power-sharing with Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance, nor will we prioritize personal interests over the interests of the people.
The talks are taking place at the Bomas of Kenya, a tourist site that hosted the announcement of last year’s closely contested election results.
There is no specified timeframe for the negotiations, and even the exact agenda is a subject of contention.
Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja coalition aims to discuss the rising cost of living and electoral reforms after Odinga, a prominent opposition figure, lost his fifth bid for the presidency to Ruto, alleging electoral fraud.
However, the initial draft agenda did not include the economic crisis or the tax hikes implemented in July, which has angered Kenyans facing skyrocketing prices of essential goods like fuel and food.
Critics accuse Ruto of breaking promises made during the election campaign, where he positioned himself as a champion of impoverished Kenyans and pledged to improve their economic circumstances.
Odinga called off the demonstrations in April and May after Ruto agreed to dialogue through a similar process, but these talks collapsed, leading to the resumption of protests.
Cecily Mbarire, who leads the Kenya Kwanza delegation, emphasized their commitment to placing the interests of Kenyans first. She expressed optimism that “the issues before us can be discussed and solutions found.”
“We are here as Kenya Kwanza because we recognize that our country is more important than any individual. We approach these talks in good faith and with determination to find lasting solutions for Kenyans,” she added, without providing further details on the agenda.
The opposition protests that erupted after Odinga’s election defeat in 2017 continued until he brokered a surprise truce the following year with former president Uhuru Kenyatta, known as “the handshake.”
Ruto declared on Wednesday that he would not entertain discussions of a power-sharing agreement.
“Elections have already taken place, and there will be no discussions for another leader to find employment,” he stated during a rally, referring to speculation about establishing an office for Odinga.
Odinga, his rival, has vowed to return to the streets if the opposition’s demands are not met.
“If there is no agreement after 30 days, the Kenyan people will take a different course of action,” Odinga warned over the weekend.
In Kenya, inflation has remained stubbornly high, reaching an annual rate of 7.3% last month, while the Kenyan shilling has hit record lows at around 143 to the dollar.
Ruto insists that the contentious tax hikes are necessary to create employment opportunities and replenish government coffers as the country grapples with a debt burden of over $70 billion.