Kenyan opposition suspends “People’s Assembly” after rivals meet

Kenyan opposition politicians said on Monday they had suspended their rival assembly, days after their leader said he would reconcile with President Uhuru Kenyatta and end months of post-election turmoil.

Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga met on Friday and promised to re-unite the country after 100 people were killed in clashes, mainly between opposition supporters and security forces.

The opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition said it welcomed the new spirit of cooperation – though it warned that the suspension could be lifted if the government did not address divisive issues including land.

“We have accepted. We acknowledge that it is better to reason together than separately,” the NASA Peoples Assembly Organising Committee said, in the first sign that rank-and file campaigners backed the leaders’ surprise reconciliation.

The People’s Assembly was announced in the wake of presidential election in August, and a repeat vote in October, both won by Kenyatta and both dismissed by the opposition as fraudulent.

Organisers at the time said the People’s Assembly was not meant to be a parallel government, but other statements said citizens would be able to use it to “exercise their sovereignty” until what they called “proper elections” were held.

Several Kenyan counties set up their own local People’s Assemblies, meant to be part of a central, national body, which has yet to meet.

Before Friday, Kenyatta and Odinga had defied calls from civil society, religious leaders and Western diplomats to hold talks to overcome deep divisions after the elections.

Violence during the two rounds of voting last year revived memories of the clashes that followed a contested 2007 vote, though the toll did not come close to the estimate 1,200 killed that time around.

Reporting by George Obulutsa and Humphrey Malalo; Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Andrew Heavens

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