Formal political opposition is back. Its five-year holiday in the defunct Jubilee government is over. Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance is holding well together, the August 2022 presidential election candidate, Mr Raila Odinga, its de facto leader.
The role of former President Uhuru Kenyatta remains unclear. He is, otherwise, listed as chairperson of the Azimio council.
While he has not spoken for Azimio since the inauguration of President William Ruto, Uhuru remains the supreme leader of Azimio, unless he formally steps down. His half-a-decade of dalliance with the opposition created an ambiguous situation. His deputy became the de facto face and voice of the opposition.
Those who should have been the opposition were incubated in government. They nursed the hope of succeeding him. After their defeat, Uhuru is lost in the opposition mix.
As Raila returns to the streets with the troops, it might be neat for Uhuru to formally resign from the Azimio council, and allow Raila to steer that ship.
Raila’s choice of re-entry is significant. The streets and slums of Nairobi city. He is taking to task the yet to be fully constituted government of President Ruto. He has blamed Ruto for ‘the high cost of living’ and what he has termed ‘failed electoral promises.’ It is perhaps too soon to make some of the accusations, seeing that the Ruto regime has not even got out of the cradle. Yet, it is true, they made promises. It is Raila’s role, with his team, to police-mark them, to make them accountable. It can never be too soon.
Both teams have tricky assignments. For Dr Ruto, it is cleaning the Augean stables, before he could dream of delivery of promises. Raila, on the other hand, has to tread carefully, to avoid contradicting himself on past positions and pronouncements.
He must not look or sound like an embittered individual in a self-contradictory sour grapes scenario. A position he has previously espoused does not become wrong today just because his nemesis is in charge.
The country will recall that in 2011 Raila rebuked then Naivasha MP John Mututho for his opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). In a story headed, ‘Raila urges conservatives to embrace GMO’ The Standard quoted him, in October 2011, as saying, ‘Conservatism will kill innovation.’
He stated further, ‘Developed nations like the US, Canada, Argentina and many countries in the European Union, which have stringent safety and testing standards, have embraced genetic engineering of food crops to improve food yields and develop pest resistant crop varieties.’
Raila accused Mr Mututho of ‘relying on discredited expertise about genetically modified foods to sow alarm.’ Today he is in court, seeking to reverse the admission of GMOs in Kenya. Kenyans will want to know from both the government and Raila what has changed. The government suspended GMOs ten years ago. Why has it admitted them? Raila promoted GMOs. What has changed?
Equally, only two months ago, Raila named Mr Kalonzo Musyoka his prospective Chief Cabinet Secretary, in the event that he won the August 9 presidential election. Dr Ruto named Musalia Mudavadi a prospective Prime Cabinet Secretary. The difference between the two is the same.
Today, Raila says this nomination is unconstitutional. His parliamentary troops will be questioning this nomination on Monday. Again, what has changed?
Meanwhile, Ruto has a Herculean task. He has to clean up the mess left behind by those who preceded him and deliver what he promised. Both leaders will need to find the right focus.
Raila will need to flesh out and frame issues that edify the opposition, while Ruto will have to know when to turn his back to the crowd and face the orchestra. He cannot afford to be distracted by Raila all the time.
Yet, he also cannot ignore the crowd all the time. Raila must oppose without paralysing the country and Ruto must ignore some things about Raila without throwing away the baby with the waters. It’s tricky both ways.
Dr Muluka is a strategic communications advisor. www.barrackmuluka.co.ke