Kenya’s Ruto wants to meet with opposition leader | Story

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has criticized the police for using violence against protesters.

Kenyan President William Ruto has said he is ready to meet opposition leader Raila Odinga “at any time” in the next few months protests against the government which has sparked international alarm and calls for dialogue.

“As you already know, I am available to meet with you whenever you want,” Ruto said in an address to Odinga on Twitter.

Opponents accusing Ruto about raising taxes as the country faces rising inflation and going back on promises he made in the August 2022 election, when he declared himself the leader of Kenya’s poor and promised to improve their economy.

Ruto’s government says higher taxes are needed to help tackle the debt crisis and support job creation initiatives.

Since March, Odinga’s Azimio alliance has staged nine days of street protests against the government, with the rallies sometimes turning into riots and deadly clashes between security forces and protesters.

On Tuesday, Odinga accused the police of using violence against protesters.

“We are witnessing unprecedented brutality by the police,” Odinga said at a press conference in Nairobi. “The police and mercenaries have opened fire and killed or injured many people nearby,” he said.

The opposition leader called off protests in April and May after Ruto agreed to negotiate, but talks broke down, prompting Azimio’s coalition to organize several protests this month.

In a statement late Monday, the union asked “Kenyans to come out and light candles and lay flowers, especially white ones, to remember and honor those who have been affected.”

Odinga’s party called for further protests on Wednesday but said they were changing their tactics to “demonstrations of solidarity and attention to victims of police brutality”.

At least 50 people have been killed in the fighting since March, according to Azimio. Official figures say 20 people died.

Ruto has defended the behavior of the police, saying last week: “We don’t want a country of violence or fighting or vandalism”.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, an independent body set up by parliament, on Tuesday said it was “disappointing to see the escalating conflict and disregard for human rights” and violent protests and policing.

Rights groups including Amnesty International last week condemned “repression” by the police and said they had evidence of 27 “unjust, summary and arbitrary killings” in July alone.

Several Odingas joined them to be arrested last week. Lawmaker Babu Owino was arrested on Wednesday at the airport in the coastal city of Mombasa, where he was planning to lead the protests.

Member of Parliament Ken Chonga was also arrested along with other people who were following him during a meeting expected to take place in Kilimo district on the coast of Kenya.

The police also arrested Calvin Okoth, a youth leader at the Jacaranda Grounds People’s Parliament.

Odinga also claimed earlier this month that the government had planned a plot to kill him during the protests and said his car was shot at several times as he drove around the capital, sparking protests.

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