President William Ruto took the initiative to send a representative to opposition leader Raila Odinga, offering a significant concession and expressing his willingness to engage in bipartisan discussions in an attempt to put an end to the opposition protests. Confidential sources from both Raila and Ruto’s camps confirmed that the two leaders had been in indirect discussions through trusted intermediaries over the previous two days.
International pressure from the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, China, and Japan urged the leaders to reach a truce and put an end to the escalating violence between opposition protesters and police forces. Ruto was reportedly troubled by a violent attack on a farm owned by former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family, which was allegedly orchestrated by high-ranking members of his government in collaboration with the police command.
Raila, on the other hand, was concerned about the increasingly violent nature of the ostensibly peaceful protests, which could be attributed to disorganization within his ranks or government security agent infiltration intending to undermine the demonstrations.
While the indirect talks between the leaders did not delve into specifics, they did agree on general principles for dialogue. Ruto publicly extended an olive branch, and Raila reciprocated by calling off the next protest scheduled for the following Monday. However, subsequent disagreements over the talks’ nature revealed unresolved issues.
Ruto announced negotiations in Parliament focused on the selection of new members for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. However, Raila still claims victory in the 2022 elections and insists on broader national dialogue to address opposition grievances, including an “opening of the servers” for scrutiny.
Raila’s suggestion of a National Accord-type solution in addition to Ruto’s proposed parliamentary process may have unintentionally exposed his motives. While Raila denies ever seeking a power-sharing deal, the reference to the National Accord negotiated by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2007 recalls the arrangement that landed Raila the position of Prime Minister in President Mwai Kibaki’s administration.
This proposal has not been well-received by Ruto’s camp, as the President has repeatedly stated that incorporating the opposition into the government is not an option, calling it unconstitutional and a betrayal of multi-party democracy. Instead, Ruto desires a strong opposition to hold his administration accountable. However, Ruto’s approach to individual opposition members, courting them to join the government ranks, has raised questions about his commitment to this stance.
The current situation in Kenya differs significantly from the circumstances leading up to the 2007 Grand Coalition. While the country is not on the brink of civil war, continued weekly protests in Nairobi and Kisumu could destabilize the nation further. Some government officials have expressed concerns over the potential for a harsh crackdown on civil liberties and police forces resorting to extrajudicial means.
Ruto’s rejection of a power-sharing deal and Raila’s insistence that it was never his intention should have alleviated such concerns. However, Raila’s preference for a National Accord-type mechanism has reignited suspicions and justified those who warn against his alleged plot for a power-sharing arrangement.