Kenya’s Ex-Premier Odinga Plans Rallies to Demand Reforms

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said he plans to hold more than a dozen rallies across the country to galvanize support for political reforms including an overhaul of the nation’s electoral body.

The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, headed by Odinga, last month set a July 7 deadline for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling group of parties known as the Jubilee Coalition to agree to a “national dialog” that will discuss changes to the electoral system as well as the high cost of living and insecurity. Jubilee on June 3 rejected the request for talks.

“More than 60 percent of people in this country want dialog, I am positive about that,” Odinga said in an interview broadcast on Nairobi-based Citizen Television yesterday. “There are urgent issues that must be tackled, like the issue of insecurity. These issues cannot wait for another election.”

Odinga, 69, in March 2013 lost his third bid to become president in elections he described as flawed. Kenyatta won the vote with 50.5 percent of the ballots, while Odinga obtained 44 percent, according to the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission. A European Union observer mission said the vote count lacked transparency.

Odinga’s coalition, known as CORD, challenged the outcome in the Supreme Court, which upheld Kenyatta’s victory. Odinga said yesterday that while he accepted the court’s ruling, he didn’t agree with it. Jubilee legislators have said CORD’s proposals to disband the electoral body should be debated in the National Assembly.

Political Agenda

Odinga said CORD will use the rallies, the first it has organized to pursue its agenda since the elections, to push for political reforms and discuss the deterioration in security in Kenya.

Kenya has faced increasing attacks by Islamist militants since sending its army into neighboring Somalia in October 2011 to fight al-Shabaab insurgents who are trying to overthrow the government. The al-Qaeda-linked militants claimed responsibility for the Sept. 21 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in which at least 67 people died. Since then, there have been a spate of bombings in Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa that have killed at least 64 people and injured another 263, according to Maplecroft, the Bath, U.K.-based risk consultancy.

Religious leaders in Mombasa have also been attacked. Yesterday, unidentified gunmen killed moderate Muslim cleric Sheikh Idris Mohamed. The incident, the latest in a series of killings of Muslim preachers, dealt a setback in the fight against “religious extremism,” Kenyatta said yesterday.

Rally Schedule

Odinga said the fact that no one has been taken to court following the killings of the clerics, along with other unanswered questions about security that he didn’t specify, suggested there was a need for a national dialog on the matter.

The first of CORD’s rallies will be held on June 13 in Migori county in southwestern Kenya, followed by one on Sunday in the port city of Mombasa. A final rally will be held in Nairobi on July 7. All of the gatherings will feature speeches by representatives of companies, the youth, women and civil society, according to Odinga.

“The rallies will give a clear indication of what Kenyans think, because they are consultative rallies with the people,” Odinga said.

Odinga served as Kenyan prime minister from 2008 to 2013 in a coalition government with President Mwai Kibaki after disputed polls in 2007 led to clashes that left more than 1,100 people dead and cut economic growth to 1.5 percent in 2008 from 7 percent a year earlier.

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