Analysts dismiss Azimio's signature collection as a political trick

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga penned the first signature on the collection rollout on Friday, July 7, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard] 

Azimio la Umoja’s ambitious plan to collect 10 million signatures aimed at ousting President William Ruto has raised questions over its effectiveness. Azimio leader Raila Odinga launched the signature collection drive during a rally at Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi on Friday, July 7, 2023.

“Today, we have begun the movement to collect signatures so that Kenyans can say they are withdrawing their delegation of powers to the elected leaders and take it themselves... we will carry out a referendum to delegitimise this regime,” Raila said.

Suleiman Albashir, an advocate of the High Court says the process of removing a sitting president is quite laborious and can only be executed from within parliament.

“When you talk about the process of removing a sitting President, it is a parliamentary-centred process and no one outside Parliament can execute that particular process,” said Bashir.

According to the constitution, a president can be impeached if the motion is supported by at least two-thirds of the National Assembly. The Speaker then informs the Senate Speaker, and the president continues to perform his duties during the proceedings. The Senate convenes a meeting within seven days and may appoint a special committee to investigate the allegations.  

The committee submits a report within ten days, stating whether the allegations have been substantiated. The president has the right to appear and be represented during the investigation. If the committee substantiates the allegations, the Senate holds a vote on the impeachment charges. If at least two-thirds of the Senate members support the impeachment charge, the president is removed from office.

However, the lawyer argues that Azimio is alive to the law and the signature collection drive is not meant to remove the president from office but politically erode President Wiliam Ruto’s supporters’ faith in him.

“The signature collection will show that about 10 million plus who will sign the petition have no confidence in the sitting president. It will also affect the president’s place in having a stab at the presidency in 2027 by drawing an inference that the people of Kenya come 2027 will have lost faith in him,” says Bashir.

Given the opposition’s inability to secure the necessary support in both Houses of Parliament, exemplified by its failure to rally 100 MPs to challenge the Finance Act, 2023, the lawyer argues that their remaining recourse is to undermine the president’s prospects for the 2027 elections.

Bashir says the signature collection drive will not only compel the President to engage in political discourse and address the opposition’s concerns but also divert his attention away from his primary responsibilities. [Judah Ben-Hur]

“The president may have little to show Kenyans if he is not careful,” he says.

Political scientist Prof Amukoa Anangwe argues that the opposition’s new strategy coupled with recent demonstrations is just a new “gimmick.” “The opposition has tried everything in the book to hold sway politically… now they are coming up with a new gimmick to riot in a view to oust the regime. This is just a continuation of the earlier efforts that are yet to yield significant results,” said Prof Anangwe.

Prof Anangwe says ‘riots have become an end by themselves.’ “Whichever options or strategies the opposition adopts are not bound to go far and regrettably, political negotiations take a bit of time,” he says.