No need to blow hot and cold on Opposition

Azimio leader Raila Odinga addresses a consultative rally at Kamukunji Grounds in Shaurimoyo, Nairobi on December 07,2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

An unforgiving government and a struggling opposition are not quite an impressive mix for any blossoming democracy.

Then there’s the tragedy of a religious community that straddles the comfort zone and morphs into a platform upon which the privileged sanitise their actions. Add these to a wait-and-see civil society and a rubber stamp legislature and your goose is cooked. The net effect is an increasingly outfoxed public.

I’m taking about the situation obtaining in Kenya where we now seem to be groping in the dark over the Opposition’s future as the new administration enjoys the full ‘honours’ of keeping itself in check.

Now, we hear plans are afoot to create an official Opposition with President William Ruto’s full backing. Some observers have described it as a slow but sure return of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which we spent top dollar to oppose before the courts dealt it the killer blow.   

Admittedly, it’s bad enough to lack alternative voices – call them voices of reason or voices of interruption. It doesn’t matter if it’s an industrialised or a struggling nation and economy like ours. The thing is, without diversity of political opinions and thoughts, danger will forever lurk.

But my greatest worry is the extent of double-speak in this so-called fresh quest to install a semblance of a working opposition. National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi says Azimio is finalising a Bill to create that office and Ruto is reportedly rallying his Kenya Kwanza troops to back it.

I stand guided. Which opposition will the ruling alliance strengthen and which one will it cannibalise? After the IEBC declared the President-elect on August 15, Kenya Kwanza’s top priority was to raid Azimio, starting with Ali Roba and David Ochieng’s fringe parties. It then went for independent legislators. In my view, the talk of rejuvenating the opposition seems bereft of political honesty. Leaders of high repute in Kenya Kwanza remain hugely condescending towards Azimio and have often said “we don’t need the handshake fraudsters we defeated to lecture us on anything.” The big question is, why the new love for the opposition? Has the interest of the country became important overnight that the usual punching bag should be strengthened by way of amendments to the law?

Raila Odinga, Martha Karua and Kalonzo Musyoka require a serious retrospection within Azimio to decide if an official opposition office – created with Kenya Kwanza’s backing – will work in their best interest. And what will they do in the proposed dispensation that they can’t now?

The quest for solutions to Kenya’s problems should unite us across the divide. But generally, regimes in Africa can be defensive. Rather than view critics as key players, they see them as detractors. I envy countries where government and opposition talk to each other. Countries where the opposition would be well-resourced and its leader given access to critical national information.

The adversarial relationship we’ve seen between the two groups often leads to incessant power and mind games like the ‘Cherera Four’ spat. We don’t need Ruto to feign appreciation of the opposition’s role. In the same hint, we least need Raila to call mass action without sound contribution to competent running of the country through alternative ideas.

If new regime will do the right thing, and the 13th Parliament lives up to its mandate devoid of bigoted interests like what happened during the sham vetting sittings, we will win big even without the office of official opposition leader.

Notwithstanding the absence or presence of a more structured opposition, every leader and institution should act in the country’s interest.

In any case, many Kenyans had prepared to survive without a versatile opposition for the next 10 years. Let leaders’ conscience speak to them.

The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter:@markoloo