Azimio La Umoja leader Raila Odinga has called off the planned bi-weekly protests after President William Ruto said he is open for dialogue.
It came just hours after President William Ruto’s address in which he called on the opposition leader to do so and give way for a bipartisan parliamentary process in the recruitment of commissioners to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which is one of the issues the opposition had raised with President Ruto’s administration.
Odinga said the Azimio camp is ready for dialogue that will address the key issues they have raised.
According to the opposition leader, the decision to call off the protests came after wide consultations, including with religious leaders, among others.
“William Ruto has issued what I regard as an important statement, we have met and listened to a lot of people, including religious leaders, they have implored us to give dialogue a chance,” he said.
“We acknowledge the olive branch on dialogue, this is a positive development. We agree to a balanced parliamentary proceed co-chaired by both sides, this committee must be done immediately, including all arrests and prosecution related to demos.”
At the same time, Odinga stated that the Azimio camp is prepared to resume protests if “no meaningful outcome” is reached within a week.
“We emphasize that rights to assemble are anchored in our constitution, we reserve our rights to call for demos if there is no meaningful outcome. We will resume after one week,” he added.
Among the issues the Azimio camp wants addressed are around electoral justice, high cost of living, attacks on media, attack on democracy as well as the alleged ‘buying’ of of MPs.
Transcript of William Ruto’s full speech
1. In the last two weeks, our Country has experienced grave acts of lawlessness, widespread violence, looting and invasion of private property by persons taking advantage of political demonstrations, called by the opposition.
2. During this period, lives have been lost, people injured, property looted or destroyed, the economy has suffered and our image as a Nation dented.
3. Our security agencies have endeavoured to do everything within the law to protect the lives and property of all citizens. Nevertheless, the violence, chaos and disorder continue to distract our national focus on economic transformation.
4. Three Kenyans, among them a police officer have lost their lives in the protests. More than four hundred Kenyans, including at least 60 security officers have been injured. A Police vehicle was burnt to ashes, while another was hijacked and commandeered by unruly protestors. Two houses of worship were burnt down. Kiosks, supermarkets and a mortuary were looted.
5. Our Country’s image and history in the league of Modern Nations has been at stake. The Country’s economy has been hard hit, at a time when my administration is doing everything possible to salvage the economy from the deep hole it was in. My administration has instituted solid measures and policies to attract investors, and through their investment, create opportunities for millions of our young people to realize their potential. We cannot allow these efforts to be derailed by acts of violence, chaos and anarchy.
6. We all have an obligation to respect the Constitution of Kenya. This also includes respect for the institutions established and created by the Constitution. Our Country’s electoral system and process are anchored on the principles of this Constitution. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) conducted a free, fair and transparent General Election on 9th August 2022, a poll that was observed by different organisations; local and foreign. The Commission declared the results for all six elections conducted and any contestant who was aggrieved by the outcome, had an opportunity to present their grievances to the country’s Judicial system for arbitration.
7. The Supreme Court of Kenya heard and determined with finality, the 2022 Presidential election dispute and ruled on the petitions that were filed by the aggrieved contestants and their supporters.
8. Nevertheless, I have carefully listened to the issues raised by Honorable Raila Odinga. In times like these, it is not about who is right or who is wrong. As Winston Churchill said, 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.”
9. I have always been ready to engage Kenyans from all walks of life, including elected and appointed leaders from across the political divide, and the religious fraternity on how to make our country better and more prosperous. My door still remains open for honest, objective and sincere deliberations, based on the rule of law and the Constitution.
10. On the re-constitution of the future electoral commission, the selection panel that is currently in office is a creation of the law that was passed by the two chambers of Parliament in response to a Court decision. The Court clearly stated that one institution, in this case, Parliament, cannot dominate the process of establishing an electoral commission at the expense of other institutions that have a role to play in the country’s electoral process.
11. However, considering the matters raised on this particular subject, I suggest a bi-partisan engagement in Parliament on the re-constitution of the IEBC panel within the parameters of the law and the constitution.
12. In any case as a democrat and guided by the constitution I, on 9th December 2022, sent a memorandum to Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate, requesting for purposive intervention on Implementation of the two-thirds Gender Rule; entrenchment in the Constitution of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Senate Oversight and National Gender Affirmative Action funds, the establishment of the position of the leader of the official opposition and the improvement of Parliamentary oversight of the Executive.
13. The IEBC Selection Panel and the future process of recruitment of its Commissioners could as well be part of a conversation leading to Constitutionally and legally binding proposals, through a bi-partisan Parliamentary process.
14. In these circumstances, and in view of the recent events that led to the loss of lives and destruction of property I urge Hon. Raila Odinga to call off any further demonstrations.
15. Meanwhile, I call on all Kenyans to remain peaceful and law-abiding. I assure you that the government will continue with its sacred duty of protecting lives and property.
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