Azimio reaches out to Ruto for structured talks to end protests

Former president Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga lay flowers at SKM Command Centre in memory of those killed or maimed in demos. With them are and Kalonzo Musyoka and Jeremiah Kioni, among other leaders. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

On a day that former President Uhuru Kenyatta attended an opposition function, Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition leaders announced that they were ready for peace talks with President William Ruto.

The Head of State, who was more than 500 kilometres away, was, however, sending different signals as he told his rivals to apologise to Kenyans for causing the demonstrations that had occasioned the deaths of the people the opposition was eulogising in Nairobi. 

At the Steven Kalonzo Musyoka (SKM) Command Centre in Nairobi, there was grief, anguish and condemnation of police brutality during Friday’s requiem mass held to pray for the protesters who lost their lives during the anti-government demos.

As the clergy and political leaders intermittently took the stage, bereaved families stared unseeingly as others curled, almost into a fetal position, in their seats whenever the tragedy that befell them was recounted.

Uhuru did not make a speech even as the opposition softened its stance and emphasised the need for structured dialogue with the Kenya Kwanza regime.

Through a statement read by Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, the opposition said that there was need for dialogue given the trajectory that the country is taking.

“…It is possible for a nation to turn against its patrons and it is happening in our country. We need to listen to each other more carefully, tap into our wells of empathy, soften our hearts and unclench our fists and listen to fellow citizens,” stated Kalonzo.

The statement was a deviation from what was expected to be a declaration for the continuation of the anti-government protests – which have since been scaled down from three to one- and perceived as the opposition reaching out to Ruto.

The Raila Odinga-led coalition said that the events of the past days have warranted a reflection on the events of the present and the future and how “we want to run this country.”

 “…the lives we celebrate today must force this country to pursue more civility in our public engagements…let these deaths ensure that we do everything we can to ensure that this country lives up to the expectations of its citizens… We need to accept that we are all mortal and what matters is not wealth, status or power but what we do with it when we have it,” added Kalonzo.

The former vice president, in a seemingly tactful retreat and reassurance to the Head of State, poured cold water on claims that Azimio was intent on toppling the government.

Former president Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga lay flowers at the SKM Command Center in Karen during prayers for those killed during protests. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Speaking during the opening of the Kichwa Cha Kati Fish Market in Malindi, President Ruto said: “The time for elections is over, it is time to serve the people... They should be ashamed of themselves.”

In Nairobi, it was Uhuru’s unexpected presence at the mass and subsequent failure to address the congregants that spoke the loudest. His actions pointed to a man who did not wish to antagonise the behind-the-scenes negotiations between the ruling Kenya Kwanza and Azimio. And to show their support to the bereaved families, Azimio leaders launched an emergency fund to offer support for the dead and injured (paybill number 247247 account number 1630284407076).

 Uhuru made the first Sh1 million contribution, Raila Sh1 million, members of Parliament Sh1.5 million, Kalonzo Sh500,000 and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua Sh200,000.

“We appeal to all Kenyans to come through to fellow Kenyans… We are thankful to the doctors who saved lives and the police who although armed to the teeth and with express orders to shoot and kill still restrained themselves. They may not have been the majority but they were there. In the end, we are all in the same struggle,” further read the statement.

At the same time, Azimio has explained why they had made the last-minute change of the venue for yesterday's requiem mass.

The mass was initially to be held at the De Paul Grounds in Karen but was changed to the SKM Centre overnight.

National Assembly minority leader Opiyo Wandayi revealed that there was an attempt by the government to stop the mass.

“The police intimidated the Catholic Church which had given us the De Paul grounds for use. They are also intimidating banks for them not to allow us to open an account for the victims of police brutality. Also intimidating Safaricom because they are afraid of anything and everything,” stated Wandayi.

Legislators, however, said they would not bow to intimidation and would go on with the protests.

Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi, “The government is in fear of the masses that is why it using police force. We will not be cowed and will proceed with our protests,” said Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi.

“As you continue with the bloodletting, God is watching… If you continue killing Kenyans then remember you will not be forever in power forever,” added Embakasi East MP Babu Owino.