By Our Reporter
NAIROBI, Kenya [SHIFTMEDIA] Following the truce, Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party yesterday called off the fourth round of protests planned for today but warned of a resumption to the demonstrations should the government renege on the deal to immediately form the bi-partisan parliamentary committee.
President Ruto had earlier set the stage for the ceasefire in a televised address to the nation, noting that the two weeks of protests had caused the deaths of three people with hundreds others injured. He said the violence had also ruined the economy.
Acceding to one of the four key demands by the Opposition to review the recruitment of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners, the President suggested “a bi-partisan engagement in Parliament on the re-constitution of the IEBC panel within the parameters of the law and the Constitution.”
Mr Odinga’s camp has accused President Ruto’s administration of rushing through changes on the composition of the selection panel that will interview IEBC candidates in order to stack up the team with commissioners who are biased towards the Kenya Kwanza administration.
President Ruto, in his address at State House in Nairobi yesterday said the precarious political situation called for compromises without regard to who is right or wrong, even as he urged Mr Odinga to call off the anti-government protests, which his main rival subsequently did.
The composition of the IEBC selection panel has been one of the reasons Mr Odinga has called for the bi-weekly demonstrations, the others being lowering the cost of living, opening electoral servers to audit last year’s presidential election that Mr Odinga claims was rigged and reinstatement of four electoral commissioners forced out of office on accusations that they attempted to block Dr Ruto’s path to victory.
“I have carefully listened to the issues raised by [Odinga]. In times like these, it is not about who is right or who is wrong. Like 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,” said President Ruto.
The President also downplayed suggestions the ruling coalition could exploit its majority in Parliament to stall the process, saying, a bipartisanship route “is not a game of numbers” and “we have been on this road before.”
“I have always been ready to engage Kenyans of 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,” the President added. But even as the President ceded ground, he did not indicate how the bipartisanship approach on recruitment of IEBC commissioners will obtain.
This is considering that the IEBC selection panel that was gazetted sometimes back is already working within statutory timelines and is in the process of shortlisting Kenyans who applied to be members of the commission. Yesterday, Mr Odinga welcomed Dr Ruto’s “statement that I regard as important” but insisted the bi-partisan committee be established immediately and with “strict timelines”, failing which the coalition warned of a return to mass action next week.
Mr Odinga’s anti-government protests started on March 20. Yesterday, the President also reminded Mr Odinga that the issue of legitimacy of his government had been settled by the country’s institutions as established by the Constitution and that the IEBC conducted “a free, fair and transparent General Election.”
“This is a poll that was observed by different organisations both 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,” he said.
Although Mr Odinga contested President Ruto’s election, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of IEBC against Mr Odinga’s wishes.
The President ruled out welcoming the Azimio side into the government, saying, doing so would be going against the wishes of the people.