The clamour by opposition parties for coalition with the ruling Jubilee is threatening to scuttle alternative voices and return the country to a one-party state.
Coming two years after the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, the cordial relationship between the various opposition parties and Jubilee is proving a death-knell to the voices that kept the government in check.
The National Super Alliance (Nasa), the main opposition coalition, is facing dissolution as at least two parties — Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper and Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) — have agreed to a new political deal.
With ODM also hinting at a possible pact with Jubilee, Nasa’s fate now hangs in the balance as a clause in the agreement states that the coalition automatically dissolves once at least three parties pull out of the deal.
ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna said Nasa is no more, adding the party would reclaim the position of National Assembly Minority Whip currently held by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa.
“We want him (Chris Wamalwa) to relinquish that seat for Saboti MP Caleb Hamisi because he has failed in his role and become defiant,” Mr Sifuna said.
But Nasa steering committee member and Ford Kenya secretary-general Eseli Simiyu told Nation the coalition would only cease to exist should three member parties pull out.
“Nasa coalition can be dissolved if three of the partners pull out. However, since some are talking about cooperation with Jubilee, this may not affect the existence of Nasa,” Dr Simiyu said.
But Amani National Congress (ANC) nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi disagrees.
“There is no law that bars parties from being members of two coalitions. This will be an infringement on the rights of such parties to associate with others for the well-being of the country,” Mr Osotsi said.
ANC secretary-general Barrack Muluka argues that only Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu can “pronounce the death of Nasa”.
“You don’t pronounce someone dead until the person is dead. It is possible that some people may be in the preparatory stages of killing the coalition. Some have even made up their minds to migrate but that hasn’t happened yet,” Mr Muluka said.
To underline the issues in the coalition, Mr Muluka revealed that the Nasa Summit, which brings together all the party leaders in the coalition, has not met for the last two years.
According to the Nasa coalition agreement deposited with the Registrar of Political Parties, the coalition shall stand dissolved at the end of the life of the current Parliament or if at least three partners in the deal file to formally disengage.
“So far no one has filed to exit the coalition, which means it’s alive and kicking,” Mr Muluka said.
Mr Ruto, the former Bomet governor whose CCM party is a member of Nasa, also confirmed that the last time he attended a Nasa Summit meeting was in August 2017.
He, however, noted that he decided to cooperate with the Jubilee administration immediately after disagreeing with his partners over how to deal with the outcome of the 2017 presidential election.
“Our partners were pushing for a violent rejection of the presidential results. They had refused to go to court and they were calling for secession. That is the situation we never wanted to contemplate as CCM,” Mr Ruto said.
However, Nasa later successfully challenged the presidential results at the Supreme Court.
Mr Ruto’s party did not also agree on the idea of ‘swearing in’ Mr Odinga as the people’s president at Uhuru Park in December 2017, to protest the manner in which the October 26, 2017 repeat presidential election was conducted.
Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni said the ‘handshake’ clearly muted the opposition.
“Unfortunately it also affected the oversight responsibility because some within the executive view the National Assembly as unnecessary irritant. They are happy to appear before the Senate where the don’t risk any consequences or penalty in the event that they are found culpable,” he said.
Mr Odinga, during an interview with a local FM station, denied claims the opposition is dead, adding that his pact with President Kenyatta should not be misconstrued to mean he had joined the government.
“We hope to ensure the public have trust in the institutions of government and I instructed our legislators not to keep quiet when things are bad. They are peoples’ representatives and must represent them effectively,” Mr Odinga said.
He said President Kenyatta was concerned by the issues raised by opposition MPs two weeks ago and met some of the leaders to discuss the concerns such as the floods menace.
But political analyst Herman Manyora argues that since the March 9, 2018 handshake, opposition seized to exist.
“With the current coalition deals, Kenyans are slowly being put in a situation akin to what we had during the grand coalition government of 2008-2013.”
Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang'ata, however, noted that the Kenyan opposition was intact, “only that the President is doing a good job not worth opposing.” “Tangatanga have converted themselves into opposition which is okay. Even Nasa can still oppose our policies but we in government ensure we are fair to everyone, hence everyone has joined us because Uhuru is doing a good job.”
Tiaty MP William Kamket also reiterated that Dr Ruto was now executing the role of opposition.
“That is a fact. Ruto is there and is doing his opposition role,” Mr Kamket said.
Busia Woman Representative Florence Mutua said opposition is not dead. “We are still pointing out the wrongs in the government and most recently the issue of how Covid-19 funds were being spent,” Ms Mutua said.
Additional reporting by David Mwere