Kenya's opposition rejects unity call, pushes for reforms

Saturday December 02 2017

Nasa leader Raila Odinga addresses opposition supporters following a party retreat in Mlolongo in Machakos County on November 25, 2017. PHOTO | NMG


President Uhuru Kenyatta’s attempts to extend an olive branch to the opposition aimed at healing the country is proving to be an uphill task.

Leaders of the main opposition coalition, National Super Alliance (Nasa) keep making fresh demands to be met before they recognise President Kenyatta’s administration and pave the way for national dialogue.

According to the opposition, the first item on the agenda for dialogue with President Kenyatta should be electoral justice to discuss if the October 26 repeat presidential elections reflected the will of the majority of Kenyans.

The second item is police brutality, which has left scores of their supporters and three innocent children dead.

In his inauguration speech, President Kenyatta said that his next agenda will be the unity of Kenyans and service delivery to all, including opposition regions, which boycotted the repeat presidential elections.

“I undertake to be the custodian of the dreams of all, and to be the keeper of the aspirations of those who voted for me and those who did not...,” said President Kenyatta at Nairobi’s Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani.


But the opposition termed President Kenyatta’s call for dialogue with the opposition a public relations exercise.

“Until the president makes efforts to reach out to us, this is just PR stunts, meant to open the floodgates for congratulatory messages from foreign countries. This is the same paragraph he had in his 2013 speech but he did nothing,” said Kibisu Kabatesi, spokesman for Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, one of the Nasa principals.

Litmus test

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) — a state-owned agency charged with the responsibility of promoting harmony among Kenyans —  put the task of unity among Kenyans at the door steps of President Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga.

“The political differences must be settled at the top with the protagonists first finding their own political solutions, but we at NCIC are planning to hold meetings with affected communities and persuade them to live peacefully,” said NCIC CEO Hassan Mohamed. 

But President Kenyatta’s commitment to spearheading national cohesion and reconciliation could run into trouble after Nasa warned that it will not participate in vetting of Cabinet Secretaries, to deny his government legitimacy.

While compiling a list of Cabinet Secretaries in itself is a litmus test for President Kenyatta’s commitment to addressing exclusion complaints due to the number of politicians he promised plum government jobs, threats by the opposition to sabotage the vetting has cast doubts over whether the country can pull together in the near future.

Newly appointed minority leader John Mbadi said the opposition will not send names of its representatives to the committee to vet Cabinet Secretaries.

However, the ruling Jubilee Party has said that all regions will be included in the government, warning that exclusion of senior politicians does not mean other communities have been sidelined.

“We will have a Cabinet that represents the face of Kenya. If we don’t have Raila Odinga or Kalonzo Musyoka but there are other people from their community, does not mean they have been excluded,” said David Murathe, a key ally of President Kenyatta.

The opposition game plan still remains push for electoral reforms that would guarantee credible elections in future, a demand that the Jubilee Party has embraced, “but only if pursued through legal means.”