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Kenya: Raila Odinga calls for talks to involve parties outside parliament

Kenya opposition leader Raila Odinga   -  
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Brian Inganga/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved


Raila Odinga has called for parties outside parliament to be involved in talks on electoral reform and the high cost of living. The Kenyan opposition leader's call is at odds with President William Ruto's plan for negotiations to be held only within parliament.

On Tuesday, Odinga warned of fresh protests if the government did not take demands of the opposition seriously. He had earlier agreed Sunday to the talks proposed by Ruto after the president asked him to halt protests, over rising cost of living and claims of fraud in last August's presidential elections. 

For two weeks, thousands took part in three opposition marches, causing some unrest and chaos across the east African country all of which turned violent. The protests left one police officer and four protesters dead. Businesses in the capital, Nairobi, were affected, and some looting took place during the demonstrations. Other businesses were forced to close twice last week as some private businesses and places of worship were burned down. The rising cost of living is also among the issues the opposition want government to address.

President William Ruto on Monday had asked senior lawmakers from his coalition to give top priority to the opposition's grievances.

During a visit to Kigali on Tuesday, the Kenyan president reiterated his position for the talks to be held within parliament "in a bipartisan manner, and that is the offer made to the opposition." 

But Odinga wants talks similar to those that ended post-election violence in 2008, and ushered in a national unity government. "To this end, the coalition proposes a team drawn from its ranks both in Parliament and outside (parliament)," he said Tuesday at his news conference. 

The veteran presidential candidate added that demonstrations could resume if there was no progress to the opposition's demands, which also include an audit of the elections.

"We shall go back to the people at the earliest sign of lack of seriousness by the other side," 

Religious groups had urged the government and opposition to give dialogue a chance to prevent the country from descending into post-election violence that left more than 1,200 people dead in 2007.

Kenya’s opposition has a history of calling for major protests that have in the past led to deaths and crippled the economy.

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