What started as opposition-led demonstrations challenging President William Ruto’s tax policies has now sucked in Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu whose country is now benefiting from Kenya’s political fires.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga revealed that President Suluhu visited the country two weeks ago for mediation talks at President William Ruto’s invitation but was denied audience with him.
“The President of Tanzania came here two weeks ago at the Invitation of President Ruto to mediate and she was kept waiting, not from our side. We were available but the other side was not available. She spent two nights here but it was all in vain,” said Raila.
Senior government officials from the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs declined to conform or deny Raila’s claims saying they did not want anything to do with the controversy. However, an officials in the know who cannot be named as he is not authorised to speak to the press confirmed Suluhu’s visit but claimed she was in the country for a holiday not at the invitation of President Ruto.
The Standard Independently verified from sources in Tanzania government that Suluhu had been in Kenya on invitation to broker peace between President Ruto and Raila but left frustrated because one of the parties refused to meet her.
Suluhu met Raila at Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club on July 12 and 13 (Wednesday and Thursday) as the protests called by Azimio continued in more than 20 counties.
According to the sources, President Suluhu arrived at the facility accompanied by three people thought to be Tanzanian government officials while the Azimio leader had five members in his entourage.
“The Tanzanian President arrived in her official helicopter, which was parked on our helipad,” a staff at the hotel said.
The two arrived at the facility separately but Raila flew to Nairobi to give an address on the protests before he went back to the hotel the following day in the morning.
According to sources in Raila’s circles and at the hotel who sought anonymity, the two leaders checked in the hotel on Wednesday where they held the talks.
“They came separately at the hotel but at some point, on Wednesday, Raila left for Nairobi where he later issued a press statement condemning the government on the extra judicial killings,” a staff at the hotel disclosed to The Standard.
An Azimio leader intimated to the Standard that the two leaders discussed ways to broker a truce between Raila and President Ruto over the protests in the country that “were deteriorating the already ailing economy”.
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“The Tanzanian President is keen on bringing the two leaders together so that Kenya, which is the largest economic block in the East Africa region does not fall or lose its mojo,” the leader said.
According to the source, the entry of Suluhu to broker the truce followed the failed bipartisan talks.
“The scuttled talks between government and opposition led to Raila and his team going back to the streets, Ms Suluhu has been calling for truce between Raila and Ruto,” the source added.
After The Standard exclusively reported Suluhu’s visit, President Ruto called a Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group meeting where he directed his troops to go back to their constituencies to “protect lives of their people and property”.
Last week President Suluhu, went on record saying that her neighbour is losing investors who are now flocking to Tanzania owing to the unstable political environment.
“In May and June, we have gotten new investors than at any other time in our history. The reason is that there is no peace in our neighbouring country and investors don’t stay where there is no peace,” she said.
Speaking during the ushering of the new Islamic Year, the Tanzania President emphasised the importance of peace in a nation saying it creates the right atmosphere for investors.
“The other day, I listened to the Director General of Tanzania Investment Centre who said the number of investors we received in May and June has never been recorded before. But when you look at the reason, its because it is burning in our next door neighbours’ (Kenya),” she said.
President Suluhu joins the party of interested persons including a number of foreign and local leaders, as well as religious leaders, who are for talks to end the impasse.
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops say the problem in the country is not just a political issue but one brought about by “severe economic distress” exacerbated by the Finance Act 2023.
Raila has said he remains open to talks on lowering the cost of living and accuses the president of ignoring calls to dialogue.
This comes in the backdrop of failed parliamentary-led bipartisan talks after Azimio accused the government of lacking goodwill in addressing the issues.
“Other people have tried. Right now, I know there are other people who are trying but he is the one who is resisting. I have said I am ready to sit with other people to discuss these issues,” added the opposition leader.
The calls for talks have turned into a political battleground, with government-aligned politicians claiming they talks are a ploy by the opposition to engineer another “handshake” similar to the one between former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila.