Political implications of Azimio collecting 10 million signatures

Azimio leader Raila Odinga launches the collection of 10 million signaturs during their Saba Saba public engagement rally at Kamukunji Ground in Nairobi on July 7, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

From a constitutional perspective, collection of 10 million or more citizens’ signatures by the Raila Odinga-led opposition with the purpose of removing President William Ruto from office is unconstitutional, null and void from the beginning.

Once a president is inaugurated, the Constitution prescribes three fundamental precepts as annunciated in articles, 144, 145 and 146 through which a president can be removed from and vacancy created in the Office of the President.

The first one is removal on grounds of physical or mental incapacitation. The second is removal by parliamentary inspired impeachment and the last is necessitation of a vacancy in the Office of President due to death or resignation of a president.

These are the only legal and constitutionally recognised ways of removing the president from office.

Despite the legally invalid aspiration by the opposition to collect citizens’ signatures that is aimed at removing the president from office, it has serious political implications, if not checked, can be detrimental to the president and his government.

The first political implication is that the government will suffer irredeemable legitimacy crisis. If indeed the opposition will manage to collect 10 million or more signatures that can be authenticated, it will mean that a majority of citizens have lost confidence, not just in the president but also in his government and Parliament as well-which appears to be under president’s captivity.

In a truly functional democracy, such a crisis of confidence will necessitate resignation of the president and entire government in honour of the will of the people. But I highly doubt this is applicable to Dr Ruto, let alone most governments particularly in Africa.

The second political implication is that the government will be presumed to be in office against the will of most citizens, thus, Dr Ruto’s government will consequentially be deemed undemocratic.

Consequently, politically unsettled citizens will defy the government and even sabotage implementation of government policies whose success is usually dependent upon the goodwill of citizens.

The third political implication is that the government will encounter ceaseless incidences of civil disobedience and protestations from citizens. This will negatively affect investor confidence and strangle the already struggling economy that is barely surviving under a battered shilling that is currently under enormous pressure from a strengthened dollar and other leading currencies.

The fourth political implication is that in an environment where there exists citizen-government deficiency of trust, political instability will be fostered, and private sector will be threatened. As a result, economic growth will stagnate and inflation will spike due to minimal or terminated investment and economic activities.

The fifth political implication is that when a majority of citizens lack confidence in the government, they tend to become disillusioned and indifferent especially when there is no alternative leadership.

However, when there is an alternative leadership such as the one being provided by the opposition, a perception of disenfranchisement grows and it may necessitate feelings of resentment toward the government and eventually lead to cessation.

If opposition’s initiative emerges successfully, and by luck or strategy the government pacifies the aforementioned political ramifications, it will already be a rough start by Dr Ruto in his quest for a potential re-election in the 2027 General Election.

This is why Dr Ruto should not ignore the 10 million signature collection initiative by the opposition. My unsolicited advice to the president is that he should ignore hardliners in his circle and pursue a bipartisan agreement that will extinguish political embers that continue to threaten national and economic stability.

Mr Ambuka is a political and social commentator based in Pennsylvania, United States of America.