Kenya’s Ruto offers to meet leader of opposition protests

Kenyan President William Ruto has said he is ready to meet opposition leader Raila Odinga “anytime” after months of anti-government protests that have sparked international alarm and calls for dialogue.

“As you have always known, am available to meet one on one with you anytime at your convenience,” Ruto said in a post addressing Odinga on Twitter.

Critics accuse Ruto of raising taxes as the country buckles under spiralling inflation and of rowing back on promises made during the August 2022 election campaign, when he declared himself the champion of impoverished Kenyans and pledged to improve their economic fortunes.

Ruto’s government argues higher taxes are necessary to help deal with growing debt repayments and to fund job creation initiatives.

Since March, Odinga’s Azimio coalition has staged nine days of street protests against the government, with the rallies sometimes degenerating into looting and deadly clashes between security forces and demonstrators.

Earlier on Tuesday, Odinga accused the police of using violence against demonstrators.

“We are witnessing unprecedented police brutality,” Odinga told a press conference in the capital Nairobi. “Police and hired gangs have shot and killed or wounded scores of people at close range,” he said.

The opposition leader called off demonstrations in April and May after Ruto agreed to dialogue, but the talks broke down, prompting the Azimio coalition to organise several rounds of protests this month.

 

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