Opposition leader Raila Odinga has accused his political archrival president William Ruto of not having goodwill towards talks to bring an end to the country’s stalemate, adding that he would not hold talks with him without a third-party mediator.
Since Odinga urged Kenyans to take to the streets in March to protest high cost of living and punitive taxes, his Azimio la Umoja alliance has held nine days of protests against the government, with the demonstrations sometimes spiraling into looting and deadly clashes with police.
The two wrangling sides have traded accusations for several civilian deaths arising from the unrest, which has sparked alarm among Kenyans and the international community.
There have been numerous calls from different quarters, including the diplomatic corps, urging the two sides to negotiate an end to the crisis.
In a social media post addressing the opposition leader late Tuesday, president Ruto expressed his willingness to meet Odinga in a social media post.
“As you have always known, am available to meet one on one with you anytime at your convenience.” Ruto posted on Twitter. But Odinga has insisted he would not meet Ruto unless a third-party mediator was present.
Odinga is also on record claiming that Tanzanian president Samia Suluhu jetted into the country a fortnight ago to mediate in the crisis, only to be ignored by the Ruto government. She allegedly spent two days in Kenya and left without accomplishing her mission.
“He is not somebody you can trust; he keeps changing words that is why I insist there must be a mediator between us.” He said. “I am ready to talk if there is a mediator between us.”
Ruto has never publicly discussed the possibility of third-party mediation.
Odinga had called off public demonstrations in April and May after Ruto agreed to dialogue, but the talks came a cropper, with several demonstrations held this month.
Odinga spoke yesterday during a visit to injured protesters in different hospitals in Nairobi, accompanied by a host other opposition leaders and at least a hundred supporters. He later paid tribute to slain protesters, lighting candles and offering white roses.
Similar candlelight vigils were held by small groups in Nairobi’s Mathare neighborhood and the opposition bastions of Kisii, Kisumu, and Migori counties in response to Odinga’s call.
Over twenty people have been killed, according to official figures, although Azimio puts the toll at 50.
Several Kenyans feel their normal life is disrupted by the protests, calling on the two fighting sides to sit and talk to find a lasting solution to the political impasse.
“I have not been coming to work every time there are protests because I fear being attacked on the road and being stolen from.” Cate Wafula, 29, a receptionist, told The Informer, urging the two sides to make peace.
Bodaboda rider Josphat Ng’atho, 36, echoed her views, saying, “Let them sit and talk, if they don’t, the stalemate will never end and our suffering will continue forever.”