Kenya’s government and opposition agree to talks after protests

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Kenya’s government and opposition will set up a team which aims to resolve their differences, senior politicians from both sides said on Saturday, after a series of opposition protests over the cost of living and tax increases. Opposition coalition Azimio la Umoja (Declaration of Unity) held a number of protests earlier this month, causing widespread disruption and in some cases violent confrontations with police in which more than two dozen people were killed and scores injured.

Azimio and the government coalition Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) issued separate statements confirming the talks. Kimani Ichung’wah, Kenya Kwanza’s parliamentary majority leader, said in a statement that the talks would look at the makeup of Kenya’s election commission and the creation of an office for the leader of the opposition, among other issues.

The statement said the talks would not go into recent tax changes since these were already before a court. On Friday, an appeals court lifted a suspension placed on a law that would double value-added tax on fuel and introduce a new housing levy. The court said the lifting of the suspension may be subject to further appeals, which must be served within 14 days.

A separate case challenging the law is also pending. Opiyo Wandayi, minority leader in parliament for the Azimiola Umoja coalition, whose name appeared on the joint statement, did not sign it.

He issued a separate statement on Azimio’s behalf confirming the formation of the team for talks, but did not give details on what those talks would entail.

President William Ruto said earlier this week he was open to meeting Azimio leader Raila Odinga. Ruto has in the past said he would not enter into any power-sharing agreement with Odinga, while Odinga has also said he is not interested in any such deal.

Talks between the opposition and government earlier thisyear failed to yield any solid agreement.