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New dialogue

Alfred Kiti, NairobiMay 31, 2014

The Kenyan opposition reiterated demands for a national dialogue at the homecoming of opposition leader Raila Odinga Saturday (31.05.2014). Security in Nairobi was heavy in the lead-up to the anti-government rally.

Participants at a mass rally against President Kenyatta in Nairobi (Photo: Alfred Kiti/DW)
Image: DW

Kenyan opposition group "Coalition for Reforms and Democracy," or CORD, wants the ruling coalition Jubilee - led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto - to organize a national dialogue for all-inclusive government. This was one of several demands made Saturday during a reception rally for former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who had been out of the country for a three-month holiday.

The former premier, who had spent his holiday in the United States, was welcomed by tens of thousands of opposition supporters chanting anti-government slogans, with the chorus "Uhuru must go, Uhuru must go." They braved the heat of the tropical sun for as long as nine hours waiting for the arrival of their leader.

Various demands

Leaders of the opposition coalition castigated the government, saying Uhuru Kenyatta had failed the people of Kenya.

They want the government to organize a national dialogue between the ruling Jubilee coalition and the opposition, with the aim of forming an all-inclusive government, among other demands.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at a mass rally against President Kenyatta in Nairobi (Photo: Alfred Kiti/DW)
Odinga at the rally set July 7 as the deadline for a new round of dialogueImage: DW

The opposition also wants to disband the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which oversaw the disputed 2013 general elections, and appoint new commissioners.

In his speech, delivered in the Kiswahili language, opposition leader Raila Odinga said: "All that has gone wrong cannot be rectified until both the government and the opposition hold a national dialogue. On July 7, we want the Jubilee coalition to sit with CORD for the dialogue."

This point was stressed by former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who said it was "impossible for 60 percent of the population to be left out of the government."

"We are talking about an all-inclusive government," Musyoka said. "The countries that have developed are those that practice true democracy," he added.

Moses Wetangula, who is leader of Ford Kenya Party - an affiliate of CORD - said development cannot merely apply to two regions of the country. "Kenyans are tired, and they are ready to climb every hill to make sure freedom is not abstract," Wetangula said. "Freedom is not read in the books, but lived and practiced," he said.

Participants at a mass rally against President Kenyatta in Nairobi (Photo: Alfred Kiti/DW)
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters braved the tropical heat to see their leaderImage: DW

Averting mass action

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his foes in government have had sleepless nights since the opposition announced the grand reception of their leader two weeks ago.

Prior to Odinga's homecoming, the opposition had been holding public rallies in Nairobi, preparing their supporters for a protest against the government.

On Tuesday - barely three days before the rally - police inspector general David Kimaiyo announced a ban on all political rallies for security reasons - only to reverse his decision a day later.

Security was not left to chance. The government deployed 10,000 security personnel around the city in case to avert a possible mass action, as crowds could be rallied to revolt against the government.

Leaders of the opposition have yet to disclose their next course of action after giving the government a 60-day period to hold a national dialogue in a bid to form an all inclusive government.

Seek lasting change

James Orengo, a prominent lawyer and member of Odinga's ODM Party, said Kenyans seek lasting change, which he believes can be made possible through "essential reforms."

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi on December 12, 2013 (Photo: SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Kenyatta has been plagued by accusations of corruption and tribalismImage: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

The current government has been accused of corruption, perpetuating tribalism and failing to provide adequate security to its citizens.

President Kenyatta, however, has termed the opposition noisemaking. "Freedom of expression and association in the country should be exercised responsibly - people will talk, but the government will continue to deliver the promised services to Kenyans," he said.

President Kenyatta has told opposition leaders to "wait for their turn." He claims his government is committed to serving all parts of the country, without bias.