NAIROBI – The international community is sustaining pressure on President William Ruto to dialogue with opposition leader Raila Odinga to end the ongoing anti-government protests.
Commonwealth Secretariat is the latest international organisation to push for dialogue, saying it is deeply concerned at the ongoing escalation of violence, conflict and loss of life in Kenya.
In this regard, Commonwealth in its statement has called on the leaders and communities to engage in dialogue to resolve the challenges Kenya faces.
“As always, the Commonwealth stands ready to assist in any way possible in resolving the ongoing conflict and disruption. While economic concerns are the root of the conflict, it is troubling that the protests have seen an increase in the use of hate speech and we call on leaders of all sides of the political divide to deescalate the situation,” the statement said in part, adding that dialogue is the best solution to the current situation.
“We strongly encourage all parties to engage now in constructive dialogue based upon Commonwealth values and mutual respect and for Kenya’s leaders to quickly explore practical and sustainable solutions to the challenges their country and communities face,” it said.
This is even as diplomats from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Denmark met Azimio la Umoja principal and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka at his Karen home on Friday.
On Tuesday, 13 ambassadors and high commissioners representing Australia, Denmark, Germany, the US, Netherlands, Sweden, Ukraine, Canada, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland and the UK also expressed their concern over loss of life and high levels of violence and the destruction of property in the ongoing protests and called for dialogue.
“We recognise the daily hardship faced by many Kenyans and urge all parties to table their concerns through a meaningful dialogue and resolve their differences peacefully to build the nation together, ensuring no further loss of life. We stand ready to support the parties in their efforts to find constructive and peaceful solutions,” they said in a statement.
On Thursday, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs ministry, however, asked Kenyan envoys to remain truthful as they comment on the status of the country, and to respect Kenya’s political independence in adherence to international norms governing diplomatic relations.
“Do not fall prey to propaganda. A case in point is a statement last week by the Spokesperson of the Office of the United Nations Human Rights in Geneva alleging the death of 23 people. This statement was not only inaccurate, but misleading and appeared to have been written in support of a propaganda campaign by people opposed to the democratic will of the people,” Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Alfred Mutua said during a Diplomatic Corps briefing in Nairobi
“The speed at which such an international organization that is meant to thoroughly verify information published the false information, led to only one conclusion- that the statement was premeditated,” he added.
Mutua was referring to the OHCHR statement on Friday, in which it said it was very concerned over reports of police in Kenya using excessive force to quell protests this week which have left dozens dead and injured.
OHCHR Spokesperson Jeremy Laurance condemned the violence, expressing concern over “allegations of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force, including the use of firearms, by police”.
“We appeal for calm and encourage open dialogue to address social, economic, and political grievances, with the aim of identifying lasting solutions in the interests of all Kenyans,” Laurance said.
Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Singoei was more straightforward, saying the ambassadors should keep off internal matters, lest they feed “the beat we are all trying to manage”.
“I think we are all bound by the principles and doctrines of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Article 41 (1) provides that there shall be non-interference in internal affairs of the host state,” Singóei said.
The PS further noted that while there are circumstances that could call for the voice of the international community input, they are usually commission of atrocity crimes.
“If there are developments that acquire a certain threshold, then the International Community can speak to that. The danger of speaking too soon sometimes is that it can feed the beast that we are all trying to manage.
“It can provide justification for insurgent actors to be able to legitimate their claims,” PS Korir said.
President Ruto has, however, maintained he will not engage Azimio leader Raila Odinga in any political settlement deal, saying Kenyans made their decision in the August 9, 2022, General Election.
At the Diplomatic Corps briefing, Mutua reiterated this noting that Kenyans, on their free will, trooped to the polling stations and elected a government of their choice.
“Subsequent judicial processes as set out in our constitution upheld the people’s choice. The respect that many of your countries have for Kenya is to a large extent due to the transparent elections we held and the very smooth transition that was exhibited at Kasarani Stadium when former President Uhuru Kenyatta willingly and procedurally handed over the instruments of power to His Excellency President William Samoei Ruto,” Mutua told the diplomats.
Instead, President Ruto has maintained the collapsed bipartisan talks in Parliament should be resumed. However, the Opposition has argued that the talks are not sincere, and has resorted to street protests, which have often turned violent, with police action escalating the situation.