Kenya’s Ruto offers to meet with leader of opposition protests

Kenyan President William Ruto has expressed his willingness to hold a meeting with opposition leader Raila Odinga, marking a potential breakthrough in the face of months of anti-government protests that have raised international concern and calls for dialogue.

Critics have accused Ruto’s administration of exacerbating the country’s economic challenges by implementing higher taxes amid soaring inflation.

They also claim that Ruto has reneged on promises made during the August 2022 election campaign, where he positioned himself as the champion of impoverished Kenyans and vowed to improve their economic prospects.

However, the government contends that these tax increases are necessary to address mounting debt repayments and to fund initiatives aimed at creating jobs.

Starting from March, Odinga’s Azimio coalition has staged nine days of street protests against the government, which have occasionally escalated into violence, looting, and fatal clashes between security forces and demonstrators.

Earlier, Odinga accused the police of using excessive force against protestors. In response to Ruto’s agreement to hold talks in April and May, Odinga called off the demonstrations temporarily, but the dialogue attempts faltered, leading the Azimio coalition to organize further rounds of protests this month.

Issuing a statement on Monday, the coalition called upon Kenyans to pay their respects to the victims of the protests by lighting candles and laying flowers, preferably white. According to Azimio, at least 50 people have lost their lives in the skirmishes since March, though official figures place the death toll at 20.

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