Political Crisis Eases as Kenya's Odinga Vows to End Dissent
(Bloomberg) -- Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga vowed to end a defiance campaign after his first talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta since disputed elections, easing the East African nation’s political crisis.
The meeting, which came hours before U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due to arrive in Kenya as part of an African tour, represents a turnaround for Odinga, who previously rejected Kenyatta’s October electoral win, declared himself the so-called people’s president and vowed to push for a new vote.
“Starting today, we will begin a process of bringing our people together, discussing what ails us,” Kenyatta told reporters Friday in the capital, Nairobi. Standing alongside him, Odinga said “dissent stops here” and both leaders “want to unite Kenya.” He didn’t say whether he’d consulted other members of his opposition coalition, and neither took questions from journalists.
Kenya saw more than three months of electoral uncertainty last year after the Supreme Court rejected the results of an initial August vote and Odinga’s opposition boycotted the rerun, in which Kenyatta secured a second term. The dispute cost dozens of lives and has weighed on the economy, East Africa’s largest, with growth slowing to an estimated 4.8 percent in 2017 from 5.8 percent a year earlier.
“For us to be able to make progress as a country, the people with the largest reservoir of political capital, Raila Odinga and President Kenyatta, needed to meet and have a conversation, people have been waiting,” said Dismas Mokua, an analyst at Nairobi-based risk advisory firm Trintari. “The fact the meeting has taken place is not a surprise, the surprise is that it has taken so long.”
The yield on Kenya’s Eurobonds due 2024 fell six basis points to 6.35 percent, while the shilling strengthened 0.1 percent to 101.10 per dollar by 1:50 p.m. in Nairobi.
Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, the other three top leaders of the opposition National Super Alliance, said that while they had always advocated dialogue, they weren’t privy to Odinga’s discussions with Kenyatta and they would meet with him on March 12 to discuss what had transpired.
Odinga may have run out of options to challenge Kenyatta’s victory, according to Robert Besseling, executive director of political risk advisory firm EXX Africa.
“Odinga is seeking to solidify his legacy as longtime opposition leader and dignified statesman,” he said. “He may even get a senior position like an ambassadorship out of this agreement with Kenyatta.”
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