Could Kenya Be Headed to Talks on Electoral Reform?



Compromise may be in store on the issue of electoral reform in Kenya.  Several protests by the opposition have turned violent in the past month, but at a rally in Nairobi Wednesday, opposition leader Raila Odinga said plans are in the works for dialogue.

Opposition parties held a demonstration in Nairobi Wednesday to mark Freedom Day.

Addressing thousands of supporters, Raila Odinga, the leader of Kenya’s main opposition coalition CORD, said the opposition and the government have agreed to each name five parliamentarians by Friday to hold talks on electoral reform.

Odinga said the opposition’s demands remain the same and that the nine members of the electoral commission board must step down.
“We do not want violence or brinksmanship. We want the truth. We want justice and that’s why we’re saying that the electoral commission chairman should start preparing to leave office early,” he said.

The opposition has said the electoral commission favors Kenya’s ruling Jubilee coalition.

The government has so far refused to dissolve the commission. But President Uhuru Kenyatta invited CORD leaders for a meeting at State House Tuesday.  Kenyatta further extended the olive branch by inviting the opposition to join government-led celebrations for Freedom Day in Nakuru.

However, CORD decided to hold its own rally.

Wednesday’s peaceful demonstration was a sharp contrast to others in the past month where police have tear gassed and beat protesters.

Those in attendance say tensions may be thawing.

“It’s actually a beginning,” said Fred. “The president has to go a step farther because it was just a meeting yesterday, but we expect him to do better than that. Of course, he showed statesmanship and that was a good beginning. The tension will go down if we continue in this way.”

Odinga said if talks fail, the opposition will resume its weekly street protests Monday.

Kenya is set to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in August of next year.

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