Opposition in Kenya calls off street protests for dialogue

By Xinhua
On 4 May 2023 at 08:31

Kenya’s main opposition coalition in Kenya, Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Alliance Coalition Party, on Wednesday called off street protests that they had scheduled for Thursday after the government agreed to one of their demands to engage in bipartisan talks.

The coalition had demanded that the government drop one of the lawmakers it had selected to represent it in the parliamentary talks before they started, noting that the member belonged to the opposition coalition.

The government side on Wednesday replaced the Member of Parliament with an agreeable one prompting the coalition to call off protests, which it had resumed after a three-week break.

"This evening, the leadership of the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition Party met and agreed to once more suspend the mass protests that we had earlier scheduled to continue tomorrow. The coalition took this step following the decision by Kenya Kwanza (a Kenyan political alliance currently headed by President William Ruto) to accede to one of our demands that informed the resumption of mass action," it said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

The opposition said instead of holding the protests, they have summoned their seven-member delegation to the bipartisan committee for fresh instructions to inform further engagement with the Kenya Kwanza side.

"As a party, we express deep gratitude to all Kenyans who have participated in the demonstrations in defense of justice and democracy in our country. We also wish to reiterate that we will not hesitate to resume mass action at the slightest indication of lack of goodwill and honesty on the Kenya Kwanza side," the opposition said.

The opposition has been holding protests over the high cost of living and alleged electoral fraud and had vowed to resume demonstrations Thursday unless their demands are addressed.

On Tuesday, at least two vehicles were burnt and fuel stations vandalized in Nairobi as the coalition held street protests to push the government to act on the high cost of living and electoral injustice. The protests that followed collapsed talks with Ruto’s government over their grievances and slowed down activities in the capital.

One of the burnt vehicles is a 32-seater commuter bus, while the other is a truck with transit goods heading to neighboring Uganda.

Kithure Kindiki, the cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Interior and National Administration, said Tuesday the protests portend grave danger to the rule of law and the stability of the country.

Kindiki said the violence, looting, and destruction of public amenities such as roads coupled with the disruption of daily activities portend imminent danger of the country sliding into irretrievable anarchy and called for the cessation of criminal acts.

"To ensure the country does not turn into lawlessness, security agencies are fairly instructed to enforce the law firmly and decisively. All criminals, irrespective of the political party or group that they support, must be neutered before they destroy Kenya," he said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

He said 14 key suspects have been arrested in connection with the robberies, arson, and malicious damage of property within Nairobi, while 32 have been arrested in different parts of western Kenya.

All suspects will be arraigned in court, said Kindiki, stressing that only firm enforcement of the law stands between us and lawlessness and full-blown chaos. "Any aggravation of the prevailing situation would certainly set back the country. No more violent protests shall be allowed anywhere in Kenya. With or without notices, demonstrations and protests of any type which injure people, security officers, businesses and property shall be prevented at all costs," Kindiki said.

There was a heavy presence of police across the Nairobi central business district during the demonstrations Tuesday, with officers blocking roads leading into the city center to prevent opposition supporters and their leaders from getting in.

Officers engaged youth in running battles in Mathare and Kibra, two opposition strongholds in the city.

Protests were also witnessed in four counties which are opposition bastions in western Kenya, where youth barricaded roads and lit bonfires.

Martha Karua, one of the leaders of the Azimio coalition, in a statement issued in Nairobi, blamed the police for hooliganism experienced during the protests.

Opposition leaders had also intended to present a petition to the Office of the President, with evidence that the cost of food, fuel, electricity, and fees remain unacceptably high. Police, however, dispersed them using tear gas.

On Monday during Labor Day celebrations, Ruto termed the anti-government protests as undemocratic.

He said there was no room for opposition leaders in government, adding that he had agreed to parliamentary-led bipartisan talks with the opposition, but they had chosen to go on the streets.

He added while his administration respects the rights and freedoms of every Kenyan and appreciates the role of the opposition to keep the government in check, he would not allow them to protest and destroy property, livelihoods, and businesses.

Opposition in Kenya has called off street protests for dialogue.