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Kenya Opposition Leader Odinga Calls Off Monday’s Protest

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga speaks next to one of his vehicles he says was struck by a teargas canister fired by riot police, at his home in Nairobi, Kenya, March 31, 2023.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said Sunday he was suspending anti-government protests temporarily as he was ready for talks after an appeal from President William Ruto.

Early Sunday, Ruto addressed the nation live on television. It is the first time he has done so publicly since nationwide protests began over the high cost of living and alleged elections irregularities. Thousands have attended the protests that began March 20 and were organized by Odinga.

Ruto said, “Our country has experienced grave acts of lawlessness, widespread violence, looting and invasion of private property by persons taking advantage of political demonstrations called by the opposition.”

In the speech, he pleaded for Odinga to call off the protests scheduled for Monday.

Three people have been killed since the protests began, more than 400 others have been injured, Ruto said Sunday.

The opposition has been pushing for electoral reforms, and Ruto said there could be bipartisan reform to the election commission.

Odinga warned that protests would resume if the government does not resolve the issues.

Last week, Odinga claimed his convoy was attacked and his car was hit with seven live bullets, each aimed at him. There’s “no justification for the excessive force used against peaceful unarmed citizens exercising their democratic rights,” he told reporters.

Three people have been killed since the protests began, more than 400 others have been injured, Ruto said Sunday.

Odinga wrote on Twitter earlier Sunday, before calling off protests, “We are all ready and set for #MegaMonday.”

He also continued to claim that he was victorious in the August elections and urged Ruto to “vacate his office immediately.”

In his Sunday morning address, Ruto said that last August’s elections were free and fair. And that he hopes the opposition’s claim of election irregularities can be handled in parliament and by a bipartisan group.

There have been reports of more than 20 journalists being attacked, harassed and injured since the protests began.

Addressing that issue, Ruto said his country believes in free media and any engagement that puts media in danger is unacceptable. He said media should be allowed to carry out its duties.