Cord bows to pressure, halts today’s demos

Pressure mounted by Western diplomats and key religious leaders has been brought to bear on Cord resulting in its cancellation of demonstrations that had been planned to resume this morning.

Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama, who is the Cord management committee co-chairman, announced yesterday the demos had been put on hold but warned the action could resume on Thursday if Jubilee does not accede to a raft of demands on how dialogue over the electoral commission reforms should be conducted.

However, sources in Cord indicated that the cancellation of demonstrations came after sustained push by American ambassador Robert Godec, British High Commissioner Nic Hailey and mainstream religious leaders on the Opposition to shun street protests and give the dialogue offer by the Jubilee side a chance.

Cord leader Raila had stood his ground since Friday that the Monday demos were bound to resume unless Jubilee first agreed to the formation of a smaller team to draw the terms and conditions of the main dialogue process.

Last Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the proposal to form a parliamentary joint select committee made of eleven members from each side. Raila accepted the move then rejected it a few hours later.

On Saturday, a meeting was understood to have taken place at Cord co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka’s Karen office, attended by the two diplomats, key Cord leaders, NCCK Secretary General Canon Peter Karanja and Catholic Bishop Alfred Rotich.

The Cord team comprised Kalonzo, Senators James Orengo (Siaya), Muthama and Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu.

“The Cord team were told to do all they could to convince their larger team to embrace dialogue in whatever form and make their demands when the process starts rather than before coming to the table,” said a Cord MP privy to the meeting.

Another source said Cord leaders Raila and Senate Leader of Minority Moses Wetang’ula were called on phone variously by the diplomats and the religious leaders and the same points were impressed on them.

“Their phones have not stopped ringing, they have been told the only way out of this impasse is dialogue, not demos,” said a Cord source close to Raila.

It was notable that while Raila on Friday, speaking in Nyamira, had insisted the demos were on, yesterday in Bomet he sounded conciliatory, even asking Deputy President William Ruto to support his presidential bid.

Cord called off the demos even as President Uhuru Kenyatta reiterated that he was ready for dialogue to guarantee a peaceful election next year.

Muthama said the decision to halt the demos was made after talks with diplomats religious leaders.

However, he was quick to add Cord was expecting a response from Jubilee on its demands within 48 hours, failure to which it would resume protests.

“Cord has submitted to Jubilee all our demands, framework of engagement and we are waiting for a response within 48 hours. If by Wednesday Jubilee would have not responded we will proceeded with our countrywide protests on Thursday,” said Muthama.

In a separate function in Kitui, President Kenyatta said he is ready for discussions on IEBC so that the country goes to the elections in peace.

The President asked the opposition to appoint its members to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament to engage in dialogue, saying Jubilee had already picked its team of 11 members.

“It does not matter who the commissioners are. We will go to the people for they are the ones who pick leaders,” President Kenyatta said.

TheHead of State was speaking yesterday after attending an inter-denominational church service at Kitui High School as he wrapped up his visit to the Lower Eastern counties of Kitui and Machakos where he inspected and initiated various development projects.

Deputy President William Ruto also said the Jubilee Coalition agreed to negotiate with the opposition on the issue of IEBC because it has the interest of the country at heart.

“Kenya is bigger than all of us. We ask the opposition to come to the table and stop giving conditions,” the Deputy President said.

But the Deputy President emphasised that the negotiations must be guided by the Constitution that is the supreme law of the land.

Earlier, the Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett had said police were set to provide security for the demos before they were later cancelled.

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