Absurd situation where DP is Opposition

Deputy President William Ruto addresses a crowd at Kenol town in Murang’a County, after a fundraiser at AIPCA church on October 4, 2020.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Peeved activists now hiss that the ‘Handshake’ was a ‘Handcheque’.
  • The DP certainly won't be leading any street protests any time soon.

The ‘Handshake’ did a great disservice to civil society. Oh my, didn't it! During the heady days of ‘Machozi Mondays’ (so called because of the heavy tear gas the police would bring to bear), thousands of demonstrators would pour into Nairobi streets at the command of Raila Odinga and his Opposition colleagues.

Business would be paralysed. Sirens would scream the whole day as truckloads of riot-control police officers were brought in to counter the protesters. Violent clashes between the two sides were the norm.

It was the practice of civil society groups to piggyback on these demos to advance their agenda of the moment.

It was a scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours situation.

A symbiosis.

 Raila would guarantee availability of the troops and the artillery.

 ODM’s civil society allies would craft the battle plan, the strategic demands if you like.

Neither side, of course, wanted the connection to be too obvious. Yet it was there.

Feigned indifference

Even when the authorities feigned indifference, you knew the turmoil happening on the capital city’s streets had their highest attention.

Indeed, the government eventually had to relent on reforming the IEBC, which was the focus of the ‘Machozi Mondays’ demos.

In retrospect, civil society were more like the parasite living off a host. But it worked great while it lasted.

After the ‘Handshake’ abruptly ended the relationship, the parasite has since fallen on hard times.

It has become almost inconsequential. Very voluble on Twitter, but impotent on the ground.

A week ago we saw a Law Society of Kenya platoon, led by that drama queen Nelson Havi, walk to Parliament Buildings to effect a “takeover” they had threatened following Chief Justice David Maraga’s unimplemented advisory to dissolve Parliament.

 In the days past, the Opposition would have been expected, as a matter of course, to join in with their shock troops. Parliament Road would have been a sea of shouting demonstrators, many wielding rocks.

As it were, only a handful of LSK officials turned up. On hand were a couple or so policemen. They were not even armed.

The Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr Michael Sialai, had no problem inviting the group to his office where he airily restated that Parliament was a constitutional body with its own procedures.

The team then went over to the lounge for a cup of tea, before being sent on their way.

What an anti-climax!

If the Clerk had not been wearing his Covid face mask, I bet we would have seen a cheeky smirk on his face.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi was not bothered to interrupt his schedule to meet the visitors.

One early afternoon some months back, I was driving on Kenyatta Avenue when I noticed a small, straggly group of youngish fellas gathered around the edge of Central Park.

They couldn’t have been more than two dozen.

They looked like protesters; they had some placards they were holding, rather listlessly.

Zero consequence

I couldn't quite make out which civil society group they belonged to, or what cause they were on about.

People busy with other things were passing them by without giving them a second glance.

There was not a single baton-wielding policeman in sight.

It is the presence of these law-and-order enforcers that affirms that a demonstration has gained the status of seriousness.

Their absence means you are of zero consequence. That's a serious assault to the ego.

The great bitterness towards Raila and the ‘Handshake’’ exhibited by the militant wing of civil society should be understood in this context.

His withdrawal from the barricades has been like the denial of oxygen to the lungs. Or the fuel civil society needs to make impact.

In an instant, the ‘Handshake’ messed up careers. Peeved activists now hiss that the ‘Handshake’ was a ‘Handcheque’.

Enter Tangatanga.

We have yet to see them display their street credentials in Nairobi. Your guess is as good as mine whether they can marshal the kind of demonstrations the Opposition used to organise.

Sure, Deputy President William Ruto has been attracting disgruntled civil society activists to his corner like moths to a bulb.

Maybe they have fallen in love with wheelbarrows. Still these journeymen know what it means to have the street chops of Raila.

Alternative voice

The DP certainly won't be leading any street protests any time soon. The demographics of Nairobi don't favour him.

This contrasts with Raila who, through a single word, will bring out Kibra and fill Uhuru Park to capacity.

Imagine a foreign dignitary dropping by to gauge the prevailing mood in the country. Say, a guy like US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

It is customary after they meet with government honchos they schedule a session with leaders of the Opposition.

Who would Pompeo meet as the alternative voice to the government's?

Raila? Nah, unless he meets him as the backup voice to that of officialdom.

Ruto? That's more plausible if the visiting bigwig wants to hear the current opposition vibe.

Do you begin to see the absurdity of our situation?

A State where the DP has morphed into being the active opposition to the government he sits in?

Well, well, well.