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So, who will be the official opposition in Kenya?
With the expected appointment of the Cabinet, the Uhuru Kenyatta Administration will soon hit the ground running. The administration has a lot going for it.
It is headed by two young leaders who are hungry to achieve great things and take their people to great heights. Kenyans are praying for them to succeed and realise their dreams.
When a country makes a transition like the one we are going through and is led by charismatic and dynamic leaders, mistakes will be made. It is also times like now when expectations are heightened that unsavoury characters can take advantage. Some can even derail the locomotive of history.
It is times like now that ordinary people should be vigilant and play the public watchman’s role. Kenya, at present, is in a unique situation for the traditional watchdogs are either not credible or are mortally wounded. This means that non-traditional actors must take their place and provide checks and balances.
Traditionally, the official opposition in Parliament mans the first lines of defence against government. The Cord alliance and its leaders are on record as stating that they will provide such opposition.
President Uhuru says his government welcomes a strong opposition. This collective wish notwithstanding, Cord is too weak to provide an effective opposition. First, it simply doesn’t have the numbers in the House.
Second, Cord’s top leaders are ordinary citizens that hold no public offices and thus are ineffective in Parliament where battles will be won and lost.
Third, Cord is led by limping leaders badly injured in the recent bruising elections. Four, members of the opposition parties in Kenya have a propensity to seek state patronage and Cord members may be tempted soon. These debilitating limitations militate against Cord providing a credible opposition.
NGOs play important roles in providing opposition to governments. In Kenya, such organisations have played vital watchdog roles in the past. The Uhuru Administration can ignore the noises and agitations from NGOs. The current crop of NGOs are too partisan, tribal and unaccountable. There is hardly a single charismatic leader in NGOs whose voice is respected by Kenyans.
Second, NGOs in Kenya are ethnically grouped and inspired for them to be taken seriously. Third, NGOs in Kenya are profit making personal enterprises that give lip-service to the public good. Four, NGOs are too beholden to Western interests and agenda.
Western ambassadors in Africa play the opposition in the politics of the host country. The British ambassador’s insistence that spoilt votes be counted in the presidential tally at Bomas is one such example. The Moi government used to tremble when Western ambassadors voiced their concerns on issues. The Kibaki Administration ignored them.
The same fate will befall them under Uhuru. Almost all the Western embassies in Nairobi were openly rooting for Cord in the last election. Uhuru will pay back and ignore them.
So, who will be the official opposition? Three entities will fill the void. These are the courts, the Constitution and ordinary Kenyans. The courts will not provide an ideological opposition or even a consciously organised opposition to the government.
To the contrary, the court will act only when it thinks the government has acted contrary to the law. An independent, credible judiciary will provide the most potent check to the excesses of the state.
Implementation of the Constitution is at an infancy stage. In the next few years, that process will gather pace. The implementation of the Constitution and how that process is handled by the courts will greatly impact on the government.
Lastly, the people of Kenya will demand a lot from their government. The era when the citizenry was taken for granted is long gone. Whereas a majority of Kenyans will support and pray for the Uhuru government, they will monitor and audit it all the way.
Ahmednasir Abdullahi is the publisher, Nairobi Law Monthly email@example.com