Caught up in a convoluted political matrix of the handshake, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s party finds itself lost on whether it is in government or in the opposition.
Political pundits opine that since the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila, a lot has happened in the country that would require a key opposition voice.
From the Bills in Parliament where some ODM MPs have voted with the government on the increase in tax, the removal of the bank interest rate capping to the recent review of Kenya’s debt ceiling from Sh6.5 trillion to Sh9.9 trillion, the party has retained a studious silence, or chosen to loudly back the government.
With the Tanga Tanga faction of Jubilee eager not to be seen to be opposing the President and NASA affiliate parties lacking in numbers to raise a voice, Kenya has for two years now been operating without an opposition to President Kenyatta’s government.
As it walks this political quagmire arrangement, some party members now admit that they find themselves at an awkward position.
“We are in a cost sharing programme and given the arrangement, we must then review how behave as opposed to how we ran our issues before,” said ODM Treasurer and former MP Richard Bosire.
Bosire said ODM had agreed on some deliverables with the government and it would be foolhardy for the party to start rocking the table when what they were pursuing has been implemented.
“Indeed we are in precarious position but the party leader has ensured democracy within such that when we disagree with government, we can raise it up without any fear,” said Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina.
Early in the week, city lawyer Ahmednassir Mohamed tweeted that; “Just imagine how far in terms of development/progress Kenya could have attained without the poisonous meddling of ODM in Jubilee politics/government?...very far..”
Ahmednassir’s argument reflects that of the political leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto who have accused Raila’s party of abdicating its role as the opposition and instead chose to roc Jubilee.
“Raila is responsible for the break-up of many other parties in the past having party-hopped in the pretext of forging unity in the country. Jubilee founders are already seeing indications that their party is being rocked by the “invaders”,” Ruto said in Kisii recently.
But ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said ODM was vibrant and had continued to champion its role as an opposition party effectively.
“We continue to run our programmes like before, nothing has changed. ODM remains the party that speaks for the people,” he said.
Sifuna said ODM had lined up a countrywide sensitisation programme for Kenyans to understand the BBI after the technical committee on the party presents its report next week.
Herman Manyora, a political analyst, said the opposition outfit tied its hands to champion public interest issues, which it could have freely exercised while still in the opposition.
Manyora told Sunday Standard the handshake was not a clever move as it had made ODM lose a good chunk of its supporters.
“A lot has happened both in Jubilee and ODM. Definitely, ODM has its focus shifted, and this has happened because of its collaboration with Jubilee where it cannot question certain things,” he said.
“The ODM leadership sees their latest tactics as being clever, but they are not. The leaders are no longer alive to the concerns of the people,” he added.
Manyora questioned ODM’s silence amid public outcry over rising public debt, which has led to sharp increase in the cost of living.
“Raila did a miscalculation by entering into a political pact with Uhuru,” he said.
Months after the handshake, Raila was appointed African Union (AU) Special Envoy for Infrastructure Development, further throwing the opposition into disarray.
While in the opposition between 2013 and 2017, Raila’s corruption expose lead to the sacking of six Cabinet Secretaries in Uhuru’s first term.
Bosire said the opposition should not been seen as a monopoly of anyone or one party annd that Kenyans should appreciate that Raila had played that role for long.
Political analyst Javas Bigambo said the huge vacuum left by Raila and Kalonzo has become a dangerous loophole in Kenya’s fledgling democracy.
“With Raila and Uhuru on one side of the political divide, the opposition in Kenya is just dead,” said Bigambo.