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Nairobi Halts Cross-Party Talks

FILE - Raila Odinga, center, speaks to supporters during a mass rally claiming the last Kenyan presidential election was stolen from him and blaming the government for the hike of living costs in Mathare, Nairobi, on March 20, 2023. President Ruto has stopped talks with Odinga.

NAIROBI - Bipartisan talks aimed at resolving differences between Kenya's opposition and the government of President William Ruto have been suspended indefinitely, the co-chair leading the talks said on Wednesday.

The talks were suspended after the government failed to meet the opposition demands, said Otiende Amollo, co-chair of the joint bipartisan talks.

The opposition Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) coalition led by veteran leader Raila Odinga has in the past few months been at crossroads with Ruto's ruling Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) alliance.

Odinga led twice-weekly protests beginning in March over the high cost of living and alleged fraud in last year's election.

The anti-government protests were suspended earlier this month after the opposition coalition said the ruling alliance had agreed to one of its demands. It did not elaborate on the agreement at the time.

Ruto has pledged to restore Kenya's fiscal discipline after public debt surged under his predecessor. But his proposal to raise taxes on a wide swathe of economic activities as part of the finance bill his government will put forward in parliament next month has faced pushback from civil servants and political opponents, including Odinga.

Ruto has put forth a proposal to put taxes on a number of goods and services previously unlevied, sparking an outcry from those affected.