Opposition leaders have the tough task of convincing the electorate that they can still keep the Jubilee government in check while working together with the executive to ostensibly unite and develop the country.
Following Wiper Democratic Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka joining ODM leader Raila Odinga in working with President Uhuru Kenyatta, only their Nasa co-principals, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Moses Wetangula, remain as notable opposition figures.
Following the co-option of civil society into government since the days of President Mwai Kibaki (leaving Mr Okiya Omtatah as a one man watchdog) and churches yet to recover from their wanting pastoral role before the 2008 post-election violence, a sing-along opposition may effectively have turned Kenya’s democracy down a gear.
Critics of the turn of events since the March 9 handshake say the parliamentary opposition now cannot offer meaningful oversight to the Executive, a case in point being the relaxed vetting of nominees for various offices picked by Mr Kenyatta.
Mr Musyoka insisted that his party was in opposition, saying the unity of the Nasa coalition was one way of putting the government in check.
“We are still in opposition and when we see something is wrong, we will point it out as part of our oversight role,” he said.
ODM and Wiper account for 90 per cent of the opposition strength in the two houses of Parliament.
The party’s National Executive Council (Nec) on Saturday resolved to work with President Kenyatta in the ongoing fight against corruption and the success of the government’s Big Four agenda in a meeting that was chaired by Mr Musyoka.
“After consultations with our greater membership and party structures and in the spirit of a united Kenya, we commit to work with President Kenyatta in his fight against corruption as well as his broad agenda of transforming this country under the Big Four agenda which is part of vision 2030,” Mr Musyoka said at the party’s headquarters in Karen, Nairobi.
He directed Wiper lawmakers to support government agenda while in parliament.
A cross section of Wiper and ODM Members of Parliament also maintain that they will effectively play their oversight role despite the new dispensation.
Minority Whip in the National Assembly Junet Mohammed, who is also the ODM director of elections, said the point of engagement between the party and the ruling party are well articulated in the memorandum of understanding signed by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
“ODM remains in the opposition and claims that we have abdicated our cardinal role are untrue and are based on misinformation of the spirit of the handshake,” Mr Mohamed told the Nation yesterday.
In any case, the Suna East MP added, under the presidential system of government, the general oversight of the Executive is done by the Legislature under article 94 of the constitution. Those MPs, whether in the majority or minority side, are supposed to put the Executive under check.
“There is no Executive on the floor of the House and those who think that the oversight of the Executive is a preserve of ODM or those parties in the minority are misguided,” he said.
Mr Junet’s deputy Robert Mbui sought to draw the line saying Wiper would only support the Building Bridges initiative, the Big Four agenda and the fight against corruption. “ We will shout loudest when the government is doing something wrong like plundering of national resources.”
Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu said Wiper would not support the handshake at the expense of its ambition to form the government in 2022.
“As Wiper, we will be on the frontline to offer checks and balances on the government on any matter of public interest. We will only support the government when they are doing the right thing,” Mr Mulu said.
The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Opiyo Wandayi said the only point of convergence with Jubilee was the implementation of the nine-point agenda of the handshake.
“There is nothing like joining the government. The nine-point agenda of the Building Bridges team did not envisage the winding up of the opposition. We remain in the opposition and will continue to offer robust oversight to the executive,” Mr Wandayi said.
Added to the blur is that the faith-based institutions and civil society groups have in recent times mellowed and are not speaking against malfeasance in public institutions as passionately as they used to.
Mr Churchill Suba, the national co-ordinator of the Civil Society Reference Group, said they were working on a mechanism so as to play their oversight role post-handshake. “We are working with religious groups to develop ways of addressing national issues such as the governance and management of the country’s resources and will make our position known soon,” Mr Churchill said.