Addressing the nation for the first time after opposition protests began two weeks ago, Ruto said he is ready to engage with the opposition on how to reconstitute and appoint new members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
“I have carefully listened to the issues raised by my friend [Raila] Odinga. In times like these, it is not about who is right or who is wrong,” said the President.
Quoting Winston Churchill, Ruto added that he is willing to listen to his opponents. “I dare say that courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, but it is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
“I urge my brother Raila Odinga and the opposition to call off the demonstrations,” he added.
Protests suspended…for now
After Ruto’s appeal, Raila called off the anti-government protests that were scheduled for Monday and Thursday of this week, adding that he too was ready for negotiations.
“We stand down our demonstrations. We agree that a balanced parliamentary process co-chaired by both sides and backed by experts from outside should proceed,” said the opposition leader.
But he did warn that if there is “no meaningful engagement or response from Ruto, the protests [will] begin again in one week.”
Before the truce, the opposition chief had been leading demonstrations in Nairobi, which were banned by the police, to address the increasingly high cost of living, push for reforms in the electoral commission and dispute the presidential results from the election held in August last year.
The violent protests did lead to the deaths of three people, including one police officer in Western Kenya.
On Monday, a sigh of relief was felt by Kenyans across the country, especially in Nairobi, as businesses that were closed last week reopened.
John Wanyama, a taxi driver who operates from the Central Business District, has returned to his station with the hopes of recovering financially what he lost in the last two weeks.
“I’m happy that Ruto and Raila have agreed to talk. I will now continue with my business peacefully,” he tells The Africa Report.
The appeal last week from the International Community led by the US and the UK played a major role in the two leaders reconsidering their stance, Edwin Kegoli, a policy analyst, tells The Africa Report.
“The truce was expected, it was just a matter of time,” he says.
Kegoli warns, however, that ahead of the talks in Parliament, political hardliners from both camps should be kept away to give the discussions a fighting chance to succeed.
“Ruto and Raila should personally ensure that they solve any outstanding issues during the talks,” he adds.
The regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), has praised both Ruto and Raila for agreeing to talk. Its Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu says the move will help resolve differences on national issues through peaceful means and preserve Kenya’s unity and constitutional order.
It will not be the first time for the opposition and government to engage in political talks to reform the electoral commission. Ahead of the 2002 elections, political parties formed the Inter-Party Parliamentary Group and settled on new electoral officials.
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