Kenya: Raila threatens nationwide protest against Ruto’s regime

By Victor Abuso

Posted on Thursday, 23 February 2023 13:08
Leader of the opposition coalition, Azimio la Umoja, Raila Odinga addresses supporters at a rally at Jacaranda Square in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on January 29, 2023. (Photo by Gerald Anderson / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP)

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga has called for nationwide demonstrations in two weeks' time against President William Ruto’s government whom he maintains is illegitimately in power.

Speaking before thousands of supporters on Wednesday during a prayer rally, the Azimio la Umoja – One Kenya coalition leader stressed three demands, including lowering the cost of living, which he says his coalition wants to be addressed quickly or he will lead the protests.

He accuses Ruto of withdrawing food subsidies that he says should be restored to help cut the cost of basic commodities such as maize flour.

“Ruto, your time is up, there will be no turning back,” Raila said.

The opposition leader, who has unsuccessfully, failed to clinch the Presidency five times, also wants the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)’s servers opened and audited by a respected international firm to ascertain the 2022 Presidential results, which he claims were stolen from him.

Stop giving jobs to billionaires as hustlers lack food, school fees and health services.

To end what he describes as electoral deceit, the veteran politician also wants the ongoing process of reconstituting new IEBC commissioners to be halted, and a bipartisan task force formed to get new officials in office.

“If our demands are not met, we shall lead Kenyans to take their power back and restore sanity,” he added.

‘I will not be intimidated’

President Ruto has criticised his opponent’s demands, adding that they are aimed at blackmailing his government to derail his development agenda. He adds that he will not be intimidated by the ultimatums from the opposition.

“Let them engage in mass action until they are tired,” he said.

Ruto further accused his political opponent and former leader Uhuru Kenyatta of weakening the economy after a political handshake in 2018.

“You will not threaten anybody in this government. You left us with a huge debt,” he added.

Ruto and Raila were once political allies in 2005 when they formed the Orange Democratic Movement. But they later went separate ways following the formation of a coalition government after a disputed 2007 Presidential poll. They have both ruled out any possibility of engaging in political dialogue to lower the rising political temperatures after the 2022 election.

Testing times for Ruto

Though Ruto says he is not threatened by Raila’s demands, politician Kabando Wa Kabando, a former MP now in the opposition, warns of a possible uprising against the Kenya Kwanza government if their demands are taken lightly.

“Stop giving jobs to billionaires as hustlers lack food, school fees and health services,” he told Ruto.

However, Aaron Cheruiyot, the leader of the majority in the Senate and a close ally of Ruto, accused Raila of plotting violence in an effort to destabilise the government.

“I urge the President to focus on repairing the economy [which was] badly ravaged by the handshake looting spree,” he said.

Kisumu-based political analyst Wycliffe Odera, tells The Africa Report that Raila’s warnings are exactly what his supporters have been waiting for after he launched anti-Ruto rallies in January.

“Odinga has spoken the language of his supporters, they want a clear plan,” he says.

However, Odera says he does not see Ruto giving in to Raila’s demands any time soon. “Ruto wants to be seen [as] working, but eventually he will give in to govern peacefully.”

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options