What the Kenya opposition plans as government crackdown persists

Friday February 9 2018

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga (2-L)

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga (2-L) holds up a bible as he "swears-in" himself as the 'people's president' on January 30, 2018 in Nairobi. AFP PHOTO | PATRICK MEINHARDT 

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Kenya's main opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) plans to hold six rallies in the run-up to a national convention at the end of the month in its response to the government’s crackdown on key players in Raila Odinga’s symbolic swearing-in ceremony as the people’s president.

Nasa also plans to continue with its boycott of products from companies affiliated to ruling Jubilee party, on top of a new threat that it says could include “wilful disobedience of the law”.

Following the January 30 mock inauguration at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, the government went on an arresting spree, detaining three opposition figures - MPs Tom Kajwang' and George Aladwa, and firebrand activist Miguna Miguna.

The lawmakers were released on the same day of arrest on bail but for Dr Miguna he was held incommunicado for five days before being deported to Canada on Tuesday night.

The Jubilee administration has also revoked the passports of 14 Nasa politicians, including Siaya Senator James Orengo, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, and businessman Jimi Wanjigi a prominent opposition financier.

“There is no government and there is no opposition right now,” National Assembly minority chief whip Junet Mohamed summed up the Nasa position on Thursday.

“We just have rulers and servants. What is going on, really, has made the life of anyone thought to be pro-opposition very difficult.”

Mr Mohamed said President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has negated the “huge strides we had made after the 2010 Constitution, the doctrine of the separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, and devolution”.

The opposition has been rattled by a ruthless, unforgiving crackdown that Mr Odinga has described as the return of the dictatorial Kanu regime, especially after Jubilee leadership confiscated firearm licences of Nasa co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi, and MP Simba Arati.

In Parliament, the government has recalled vehicles belonging to National Assembly minority leader John Mbadi, Mr Mohamed, and other opposition figures.

To counter these “affronts on their rights”, the opposition plans to push the anti-harassment card in its rallies, and hold a national referendum.

The rallies will be held in Suswa, Narok, about 120km west of Nairobi; Wajir Town for the northern frontier; Meru for upper eastern, Eldoret for the Rift Valley region, Kisii in southwestern Kenya and a yet-to-be-named location in the central region.

At the end of the rallies, Nasa said its delegates will converge in Nairobi at the end of February for a national convention.

“The resolutions of the convention will be validated by the people through a referendum,” Nasa's lead strategist economist David Ndii said of the grand plan.

“Our goal is to see the people’s assembly process culminate in a presidential election under a new electoral regime no later than August 2018.”

To cement the plan and iron out differences arising from the January 30 Raila “oath”, Nasa has called a meeting of its elected leaders for Friday next week.

Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi, and Mr Moses Wetang’ula (a Nasa co-principal) have all faced a barrage of criticism for skipping the Uhuru Park ceremony, and Wiper party's chairman Kivutha Kibwana says those accusations could have been informed by the “moment of anger” soon after their no-show.

Wiper is Mr Musyoka's party and one of the parties forming the Nasa coalition. The others are Mr Odinga's ODM, Mr Mudavadi's ANC and Mr Wetang'ula's Ford Kenya.

In the referendum push, the opposition is dangling the carrot of a rotational presidency, an expanded Executive with the option of a prime minister, and a strong devolved system.

The team is also proposing the strengthening of the Judiciary and reforms to the police service.

But what remains unclear — opposition leaders the Nation has been talking to have been non-committal — is whether that referendum push and the new demand to have a fresh election by August 2018 will go together.

Mr Odinga told the BBC earlier in the week that Nasa wants “a third election”, referring to the annulled August 8 election and the October 26 rerun he boycotted.

On electoral justice, the opposition is training its guns on what it calls a culture of impunity, abuse of power and electoral fraud, and through the people’s assembly wants every vote counts in an election.

On Thursday, Dr Ndii said the national people’s assembly will determine whether Executive authority should rotate to different regions of the country, but also stated that the issue of self-determination remains alive.

In the corridors of justice, Nasa has adopted a prevent-an-arrest strategy, with a battery of lawyers on call.

On Thursday, Orengo, Wanjigi, and Aladwa were turned away at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations when they presented themselves for questioning after they acquired anticipatory bails.

-Reported by Patrick Lang'at and Samwel Owino.