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Ruto Avoided Samia During a Meeting to Mediate Kenya’s Crisis, Odinga Says

Odinga claims Samia spent two nights in Nairobi but to no avail.

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Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan tried to mediate Kenya’s intensifying crisis but did not succeed after the country’s president, William Ruto, avoided the meeting that would involve his opponent, Raila Odinga, the latter claimed Tuesday.

Mr Odinga revealed during a press conference in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi that President Samia spent two nights in the city as she sought to mediate the two people at the centre of the ongoing political crisis in the country but had to call the initiative off as Ruto showed no interest.

“I can now say it here that 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, and it was all in vain,” Mr Odinga told journalists.

Zuhura Yunus, Tanzania’s Director of Presidential Communication, was not immediately available to confirm whether this happened. The Kenyan presidency has also not commented on the revelation at the time of writing.

Anti-government protests have swept Kenya, triggered by widely unpopular tax reforms, skyrocketing living costs, and deadly police violence. Called for by Mr Odinga, who leads the opposition Azimio la Umoja Coalition, the protests also challenge Ruto’s leadership, with Odinga’s followers believing that the 2022 election was rigged.

READ MORE: ‘We Shouldn’t Share Our Poverty’: Will Ruto’s Visit Improve TZ-Kenya Relations?

The protests have been accompanied by excessive use of force by Kenya’s law enforcement organs, leading to dozen fatalities and injuries. At least 20 people have been killed since the start of the anti-government protests in Kenya, with hundreds arrested for their involvement in them, local media reports.

On July 14, 2023,  the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said it was “very concerned” over reports of police in Kenya using excessive force to quell protests.

OHCHR Spokesperson Jeremy Laurance issued a statement condemning the violence, expressing concern over “allegations of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force, including the use of firearms, by police.”

READ MORE: Tanzania, Kenya Beef Up Security at Loliondo Border

On Tuesday, Azimio la Umoja Coalition called off tomorrow’s planned demonstrations but said it would hold solidarity parades and vigils for victims of police brutality at various locations across the country.

According to Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper, the announcement came amid pressure from the international community for the coalition to call off the protests and give dialogue a chance.

During his press conference Tuesday, organised by the International Press Association of East Africa (IPAEA), Mr Odinga condemned police’s use of excessive force in quelling what he called “tax protests,” noting that it was not justified.

“We expect security forces to carry out their duties and responsibilities with complete impartiality and without regard to ethnicity, political persuasion, or other partisan consideration,” Mr Odinga said. “In these protests, the police are partisan, they have ethnic formations, and they are pursuing an ethnic agenda.”

READ MORE: What Lessons Can Tanzania Draw From Kenyan Elections?

Mr Odinga said he is willing to sit down with President Ruto to find ways to end the ongoing protests in Kenya. But that is yet to happen because Mr Ruto “is not serious at all.”

He said Samia’s unsuccessful attempt to mediate the conflict in the country is one of several efforts that other people have tried to prevent Kenya from sliding into serious political instability. 

“[President Ruto] is the one who is resisting [these efforts]. So, he knows what he wants. I have repeatedly said that I am ready to meet with other people to discuss these issues,” Mr Odinga said.

“[President Ruto] is pretending, he’s living in a delusion that we don’t have a crisis. But we have a serious crisis that requires patriotism to resolve, and we are ready ourselves,” he added. 

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