handshake dance

Kenya: Ruto and Raila insist on no post-election deal

By Victor Abuso

Posted on April 6, 2023 13:54

 © William Ruto and Raila Odinga on 16 August 2022
William Ruto and Raila Odinga on 16 August 2022

Kenya’s government and opposition are on a collision course regarding how to engage each other on electoral reform talks after opposition chief Raila Odinga on Sunday suspended weekly protests and accepted President William Ruto’s request for dialogue.

After two weeks of violent protests between the opposition supporters and the police, Ruto said he was ready to sit down with Raila but through Parliament, to discuss the reconstitution of the electoral commission, among other issues.

However, Raila has presented new demands from his coalition, saying the opposition wants more parties outside Parliament to be involved in the talks.

“Parliamentary process may not address our concerns,” he said.

He warns of fresh protests if the government will not listen to the demand from the opposition.

“We shall go back to the people at the earliest sign of lack of seriousness by the other side,” he added.

Raila has accused Ruto in the past of subjugating Parliament and “buying” some parliamentarians from the opposition coalition who have crossed over to the government side and does not trust Parliament alone with the talks.

While visiting Kigali on Tuesday, President Ruto reiterated the government’s position that the talks will only take place through Parliament.

“We have offered to engage the opposition in a bipartisan manner through the constitutional avenue of Parliament,” he said.

If the talks are only left to politicians, the interest of ordinary Kenyans will be forgotten, according to Suba Churchill, national coordinator of Kenya’s National Civil Society Congress.

“Ordinary Kenyans want to participate. Article 10 of our constitution allows that,” he tells The Africa Report.

Apart from electoral reforms, the opposition wants the high cost of living to be addressed during the talks.

Blame game continues

The ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party is accusing the opposition of frustrating the proposed parliamentary dialogue by President Ruto, saying it will not change its position.

Opposition demands are unreasonable, said UDA Secretary General Cleophas Malala in a statement, accusing the Raila-led coalition of Azimio la Umoja of embarking on an extra-legal adventure to destabilise the country.