Leaders, experts ponder fate of opposition party

Wednesday March 18 2020

Kimilili MP Eseli Simiyu holds a press conference at Panafric hotel in Nairobi on March 28, 2018. He says there should be a strong opposition in Kenya. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


National Super Alliance (Nasa) affiliate parties are seeking to regroup ostensibly to offer effective checks and balances after the historic 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga left the opposition rudderless.

Nasa coordinating committee co-chairman and Ford-Kenya secretary-general Eseli Simiyu on Tuesday said their ODM partner “had joined the government after the handshake and was no longer committed to participate jointly in enhancing checks and balances on the Jubilee government”.

Dr Simiyu spoke in the wake of a debate about the lack of a substantive opposition following the peace deal signed by the President and Mr Odinga on March 9 last year.

“Other Nasa parties need to come together and form a proper organisation to check the excesses of Jubilee. I have floated the idea and I’m waiting for the management to decide,” Mr Simiyu told the Nation.


Wiper Democratic Party vice-chairman Mutula Kilonzo Jr said the opposition is not dead but only “dysfunctional”.


“This is as a result of the President and Hon Raila not demystifying the handshake. Members of the minority possibly think — whether real or imagined — that challenging the government is synonymous with challenging the handshake,” he said.

But political analysts Javas Bigambo and Tom Mboya said the opposition is not the custodian of checks and balances.

“A cursory look at the Constitution of Kenya 2010 does not bestow or identify the opposition as the custodian of checks and balances,” said Mr Bigambo.

Mr Mboya said institutions charged with the watchdog role include Parliament and Office of the Auditor-General.

“In my view, the Office of the Auditor-General has tried doing its work but Parliament is not on the right track; its performance has been very dismal,” Mr Mboya said.


He added that enforcement agencies like the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations are equally well-placed to ensure accountability.

On Tuesday, ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna and chairman John Mbadi defended Mr Odinga against accusations that he had abandoned the opposition.

“Under our Constitution, the role of oversight is vested in Parliament. All citizens also have a duty under Article 3 to defend the Constitution and check government. It would be dangerous if Kenyans were to outsource this to any one individual,” Mr Sifuna said.

“Besides, there is no evidence that either the party or the party leader has stopped doing what he used to do. It’s all conjecture.”


Mr Mbadi stated that in a presidential system, “there is no opposition … checks and balances on the executive is the work of Parliament as an institution that is both majority and minority.”

Dr Simiyu, however, said the National Assembly’s minority leadership “sounds more Jubilee than opposition”.

“The minority leader is completely muttered and parliamentary committees are in bed with Jubilee … there’s an urgent need to come together as Nasa-affiliate parties to play the oversight role.”