Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga has called off demonstrations that were scheduled for Monday, April 3, to allow engagement with the State on the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The move follows President William Ruto's proposal for consideration of a bi-partisan parliamentary engagement to address Raila's concerns regarding the recruitment of new IEBC commissioners.
Speaking to the press on Sunday evening, Raila welcomed Ruto's statement, terming it a positive development.
"We acknowledge Mr. Ruto’s olive branch for a dialogue on the key issues raised by Azimio La Umoja. To us, this a positive development," Raila stated, adding that the decision to stand down on demonstrations was also influenced by calls from the clergy who implored the opposition to give dialogue a chance, especially during the holy periods of Easter and Ramadhan.
"...In view of the foregoing, we stand down our demonstrations for Monday, April 3, 2023."
Raila said a balanced parliamentary process co-chaired by both sides and backed by experts was an appropriate way to deal with the stalemate that saw the opposition call for anti-government protests twice a week - on Mondays and Thursdays - to pressure the government to address its grievances that also included the current high cost of living.
Raila, however, noted that the weekly protests will resume in a week if there is no meaningful dialogue with Ruto.
According to the former prime minister, the committee proposed by President Ruto must be constituted immediately and given strict deadlines for resolving the crisis facing the country.
As a condition for accepting Ruto's offer, Raila also asked the State to stop with immediate effect arrests and prosecution related to the recent demonstrations.
"But in doing so, we want to emphasize that the rights to assemble, demonstrate, petition, and speak are ironclad as provided for in our constitution," he added.
"Therefore, we reserve our right to call for demonstrations should this process not bear fruit. Should there be no meaningful engagement, or response from the Hon Ruto our counter offer, we resolve to resume our demonstrations after a week."
President Ruto earlier said the protests called by the opposition chief had left a trail of destruction and loss of lives, threatening the country's economic stability.
"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.
"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.
He called on the opposition leader to call off further protests to give dialogue a chance.
"In view of the recent events that led to the loss of lives and property in the demonstrations, I urge my brother Raila Odinga and the opposition to call off the demonstrations and to give this bi-partisan approach a chance for us to take the country forward," Ruto said.
The President, however, brushed off Azimio's claims on the Kenya Kwanza administration's legitimacy, saying the matter was settled by the Supreme Court in September last year.
"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," Ruto reacted to Raila's claims that his victory was stolen.
Raila, who accuses the IEBC of denying him victory in the last presidential election, had expressed his reservations over the recently passed the IEBC (Amendment) Bill 2022 that altered the first schedule of the parent Act, to change the composition of the selection panel that oversees the filling of vacancies at the commission.
He also opposed the appointment of a seven-member panel to recruit the new electoral officials.
He accused Ruto of deliberate attempts to influence the recruitment of the new team that will replace commissioners who retired, resigned or were removed from office over gross misconduct and abuse of office.