Opposition should give the way forward on these three issues

Azimio leader Raila Odinga. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

I am struggling to understand the strategic position of the Azimio coalition as a “government in waiting” in light of the increasing discomfort among Kenyans on not just the controversial Finance Bill, but also the demand to open the server if we are to bring to a meaningful closure to the 2022 General Election.

It is in the Constitution that the job description of the Opposition is to ensure government transparency and accountability in service delivery. Necessarily, the task includes informing, advocating, lobbying as well as campaigning against any government agenda that undermines the sovereignty of the country, respect of all rights due to its citizens and providing alternative provisions that improve the quality of life in the country. It also has a role to assure the public of areas it agrees with the government. If and when convinced, and has the necessary legal support, the Opposition may impeach a sitting president.

In many countries; South Africa, Italy, Israel and the UK, for instance, governments are impeached without paralysing public life. Of course, these are parliamentary systems while ours is a presidential system. To allow for situations in which a government in Kenya, if it were to change before its term comes to an end, the Constitution provides conditions that may lead to such a regime change. Gross misconduct on the part of the president may lead to impeachment.

The Opposition, Azimio Coalition, is considerably ambiguous in providing direction on three important areas that could trigger an impeachment. First, it is blowing hot and cold on the question of opening the server to validate the winner of the presidential election. Is this still an issue or has it thrown in the towel?

A definitive and well-articulated position will help both the government supporters and the Opposition followers settle in their minds and hearts the question of the disputed presidential election outcome. Legalists are settled because the Apex Court ruled on the matter. Eight months on, the Opposition should either have a case on the server or drop it to allow supporters move on.  

Second, the Opposition has neither deregistered its defectors to Kenya Kwanza government nor taken legal action against them. Well, I perfectly understand the fear that going to court might be a complete waste of valuable time and resources, but at the party level, there should be some action to instill discipline.

The government has already given a stern warning to its members who will dare vote against the Finance Bill. As a ‘government in waiting’, how do you justify defectors who draw a salary in a name of a party they already vacated? The Opposition would be having the majority in the National Assembly which would have solidified its grievance on electoral justice.  

Third, the Opposition is not coming out as a force that carries the trust and loyalty of half of the country. With the Kenya Kwanza wobbling on the Finance Bill, a solid Opposition with support across the country should demonstrate that it can impeach the government. This would have a double-effect. To either awaken the government to proper conduct or give more teeth to the Opposition.

One reason maandamano are detested even by those who support the coalition is because they cause death, injuries and destruction of property. Granted, demonstrations are legal actions that support a cause, including for and against government, but what is the end game of the demonstrations? Is it to force the government to negotiation? The Opposition should be clear on its desired outcome.

Of fundamental importance is an Opposition that provides a buffer for citizens, as the power owners, to change government should they be persuaded to do so. One lesson to learn from the Arab Spring is to cherish the role of the Opposition in democracy. A well-organised Opposition can operate within our law to persuade Parliament and the people of Kenya for a need to impeach a government without plunging the country into civil war. The government might see the Opposition pressure as positive energy. This way it can outperform itself.

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication