Kenya Opposition Gives Ultimatum on Electoral Body Reforms

  • Group says protests resume Thursday if call for talks not met
  • CORD says U.S. leading efforts to break impasse over elections

Kenya’s main opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy said its supporters will resume protests on Thursday if the government doesn’t meet its demand for talks on changes to the national electoral body.

The group has staged weekly demonstrations in the capital, Nairobi, and other cities since April to demand the resignation of officials at the electoral agency over alleged corruption and bias. Clashes with police have left at least five people dead.

“CORD has called off Monday protests because of high level engagement involving the church, business community and diplomats pending a response from the government,” spokesman Dennis Onyango said in a text message. He said he expected the U.S. to appeal to the government to take part in talks.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who teamed up with one-time rival Deputy President William Ruto to win power in 2013, will seek a second term in August 2017 elections. Former prime minister, Raila Odinga, who heads both CORD and the Orange Democratic Movement, poses the biggest political challenge to Kenyatta in next year’s ballot. The continuing political turmoil threatens to destabilize East Africa’s biggest economy, one of a handful in sub-Saharan Africa that’s booming as it benefits from low oil prices, a stable exchange rate and slowing inflation.

Alleged Call

ODM on Monday demanded the arrest of Moses Kuria, a lawmaker with the president’s party who was nominated as a member of a team to negotiate electoral reforms, after he allegedly called for Odinga’s assassination. Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission has summoned Kuria for questioning and an investigation into the claims is under way, Chairman Francis Ole Kaparo said by phone. Kuria said by phone that he couldn’t immediately comment.

The protests have evoked memories of the political and ethnic conflict that erupted in Kenya after a disputed vote in 2007 and claimed at least 1,100 lives. They’re also curbing tourism, one of the nation’s largest foreign-exchange earners, with operators reporting cancellations and a drop in bookings, according to the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers.

“The climate we have now is not the type you want ahead of elections,” Ahmed Salim, a Dubai-based analyst at Teneo Intelligence, said in a phone interview. “It’s affecting day to day business. It will affect business confidence throughout the rest of the year.”

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