Kenya Opposition Mostly Agreed on Talks, Marches to Go Ahead

  • Opposition coalition says protests next week maintained
  • Recent clashes evoked memories of 2007 elections violence

Kenya’s main opposition group said street protests planned for next week would still go on although most obstacles to potential negotiations with the government over issues regarding the East African nation’s electoral body had been resolved.

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

“These engagements have not collapsed,” James Orengo, a lawmaker with the party, told reporters in Nairobi. “From our standpoint, we believe that 70 percent of the sticking points have been agreed upon, including the size of the committee, the independence, timelines and the subject matter.”

The government and opposition had failed to agree on procedures for holding talks to end the impasse. The government on Tuesday banned all future demonstrations and said the dispute should be resolved by negotiation.

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. Recent clashes between protesters and police have evoked memories of the political and ethnic conflict that erupted after a disputed vote in 2007 and claimed at least 1,100 lives. The country is the world’s biggest black-tea exporter and ranks as sub-Saharan Africa’s fifth-largest economy.

Kenyatta accused the opposition of backtracking after his Jubilee government nominated lawmakers to a committee tasked with discussing concerns over the election body. In a statement e-mailed by the presidency, he said action would be taken against anyone who destroys property while claiming to be involved in peaceful protests.

The opposition “have been protesting and saying they want dialogue,” Ruto said in the same statement. “We told them it is alright, let us form a select committee, then they start retreating. Apparently, they did not even know why they were protesting.”

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