Days to Kenyans’ celebrations of 60 years of self-rule, the spirit of democracy weighs heavy on President William Ruto as the opposition and the public push hard against his new top projects, the Finance Bill 2023, and the Housing Levy.
Despite a public defence of the Bill on national television, the President’s policy is facing a decline in approval ratings, exacerbated by the rejection of the bill by 74 out of 84 interested groups during public participation sessions.
This also happening amidst a public outcry against the Bill which is being pushed at the height of an unyielding economic crisis.
This is coupled with the decay of the Bipartisan talks that saw the Azimio team invoke Clause 37 of the Framework Agreement, which allows for the suspension of the talks for seven days, Ruto is engulfed in a political whirlpool and he will need the Solomonic wisdom to disentangle himself from and ensure that he still can rally the support of the country.
Azimio has trained political guns on the President, who has repeatedly indicated that he desperately needs to turn around the economy and one of his ways was to push for more taxes on Kenyans.
The Raila Odinga-led coalition had given the president a seven-day deadline to meet some demands including reducing the cost of living for Kenyans, dropping of the Finance Bill and meetings the conditions for them to resume the bi-partisan talks.
The deadline lapses tomorrow and coincides with Azimio’s parliamentary group meeting that could endorse the resumption of street protests.
Azimio is now crafting its next line of action to top its priority including marshalling its forces within the party and leveraging on the strength of former President and Azimio Council Chairman Uhuru Kenyatta to gain full control of Jubilee in the face of serious internal stress.
The resurfacing of Kenyatta into the political scene and in support of Raila’s coalition could politically injure President Ruto whose public approval seems to be dipping.
Last week, Uhuru said he was ready to retire but “constant abuses” had made him have a change of heart and throw himself back into active politics.
“I wanted to retire but this person decided that they will not let me be and kept on abusing me, I want to say that I will not be threatened, when I am quiet they should not think that I am a coward,” Uhuru told his Jubilee party members in a National Delegates Congress held at Race Course in Nairobi.
As he goes into the National Prayer meeting on Wednesday and later addresses Kenyans on the 60th Madaraka Day at Embu Stadium in Embu County on Thursday, Ruto will be trying to convince Kenyans why he wants to tax them more and why the Uhuru and Raila political dalliance against his government should not be taken seriously.
Azimio is hard pressing the Ruto administration to lower the cost of living, audit of 2022 presidential election results, restructure and reconstitute the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
This comes even as the government is pushing for parliament’s adoption of the Finance Bill, 2023 that will see an increase in the taxes Kenyans pay together with the controversial 3 per cent Housing Levy to be contributed by all salaried Kenyans.
With the rising cost of living and a publicly unpopularly Finance Bill in the political landscape, Azimio plans to slam heavy on this front in a move that might see the coalition go back to holding demonstrations.
Azimio has also hinted at holding parallel Madaraka Day celebrations on Thursday. Last year, it had planned to hold a similar parallel Jamhuri celebration but cancelled it after citing the busy schedules of the coalition’s top leadership.
On the talks, in a letter by the Co-chairperson of the committee, Otiende Amollo, the opposition emphasised that if no consensus is reached within the seven-day period, the talks would be dissolved.
The opposition through Democratic Action Party (DAP-K) party leader Eugene Wamalwa stated that Kenya Kwanza’s decision to join the talks was a way of “managing the political situation, calm down the political temperatures and continue with business as usual”.
The government side was also accused of being several teams in one and that the members are answering to different bosses and are not moving in the same direction.
“Kenya Kwanza has no clear direction on whether the talks should proceed or not. Deliberately, they have no clear direction from Mr William Ruto on how to proceed,” said an Azimio member following a meeting with the representatives of the committee last week.
With fault lines cutting deep within Jubilee occasioned by a power struggle between a Kenya Kwanza leaning faction led by East African Legislative Assembly legislator Kanini Kega and another led by Jubilee party leader Uhuru Kenyatta and the party’s secretary general Jeremiah Kioni, Azimio’s intention is to hold the fort and ensure that Jubilee remains under the leadership of the Uhuru faction.
“Kenya Kwanza must make no mistake that Azimio will do everything possible to protect its affiliate parties from these heinous attacks. We ask all Kenyans to join us in protecting multiparty democracy for which many Kenyans lost their lives,” said Wamalwa.
The coalition is also calling out all Jubilee Party MPs who have crossed the floor and joined Kenya Kwanza to resign and face by-elections and those who hold their positions by their nomination by Azimio must have their nominations revoked.
Holding the minority position in both houses of parliament, Tuesday’s PG is a major step that might see the coalition resolve to resort to other methods of ensuring their demands are met.