Kenyan President William Ruto repeated his contention for a ‘handshake’ deal with the nation’s opposition led by Mr Raila Odinga, shunning speculation that a coalition arrangement with those who opposed him in the last election was in the offing.
Speaking Tuesday at a joint press conference with his Rwandan host Paul Kagame, President Ruto said he was offering an environment for the opposition to check his government “without throwing stones”.
“As president, I owe it to the people of Kenya to provide leadership,” he said in Kigali, while responding to a journalist’s question on whether he will have a handshake with Mr Odinga.
“I want to tell you, there will be no handshake. But there will be an engagement in parliament on the issues that have been raised in parliament.”
This week, his Kenya Kwanza side and the opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance led by Mr Odinga agreed to resolve their political differences through a parliamentary process after two tense weeks of mass action led by the opposition.
The move was lauded as having saved the country from turmoil, as the demonstrations were turning more violent.
“The protests and demonstrations were acquiring an ugly and violent turn…It was time for them to reconsider those demonstrations,” Ruto said.
Kenyans were protesting, among other things, the high cost of living. At the same time, the opposition leaders were demanding that the servers at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) be opened to establish who truly won the last presidential election, and that the appointment of new electoral commissioners be stopped.
The two sides have since agreed to form special parliamentary teams to address the election-related issues.
In Kenya, ‘handshake’ means a loose coalition arrangement between the government and the opposition. Mr Odinga had such an arrangement with Ruto’s predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, something that Ruto, who was the deputy president then, says undermined development.
“We are a democracy and a democracy is underpinned by a system of checks and balances, where you have a government and an opposition,” he said.
“The people of Kenya do not want a system where democracy is undermined. I am a great believer in a system where there are checks and balances.”
Dr Ruto is in Kigali for a two-day visit on the invitation of President Kagame.
The two leaders are discussing various issues including trade and security in the region.