Azimio plots powerful office for Raila Odinga

Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga.

Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga. A push to have the office of the official opposition leader could see the Constitution amended to embed a powerful office that will keep the government in check.

Photo credit: Simon Maina | AFP

A push to have the office of the official opposition leader could see the Constitution amended to embed a powerful office that will keep the government in check.

The Nation has seen a document proposing to give the holder of the office, to be occupied by Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga, sweeping powers, including an annual address to Parliament, leeway to nominate persons to constitutional statutory commissions as well as funding from the Exchequer to ensure constant oversight of government. 

The Bill, drafted by a technical committee of the coalition and dubbed the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, could see the law revised through a parliamentary initiative to create the office of the official opposition leader and their deputy.

The office, to be funded by the Exchequer, will have “all such powers and discretion necessary to solicit and mobilise for funding from all such sources, including donor funding to supplement its budgetary allocations to finance its various activities”.

According to Article 92A (3) of the proposed document, the leader of the official opposition will be allowed to identify and appoint “such staff as shall be necessary for the execution of the said office whose remuneration, benefits and allowances shall be drawn from the Exchequer subject to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.”

It also seeks to amend Article 260 of the Constitution to include the office of the leader of opposition under the category of ‘state office’.

“The leader of opposition shall be the candidate nominated by a political party or coalition party or coalition of political parties which secures the second greatest number of votes in any concluded presidential elections and whose political party receives at least 25 per cent of all the members of the National Assembly,” states the draft Bill.

Raila updated

Sources familiar with the matter within Azimio told the Nation that coalition leaders Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka of the Wiper Party were updated on the plans at the Parliamentary Group meeting on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Mr Odinga’s close allies remained tight-lipped on the proposal, even as a confidant of Mr Musyoka confirmed the Bill’s preparation. 

“It is a work in progress. Let’s compare notes on Friday after the Bill is presented to our principals,” the source told the Nation.

President William Ruto, Nation has learnt, is under pressure from Western nations to facilitate the formation of the office as a follow-up to his promise during his Chatham House address in the run-up to the polls.

Dr Ruto had said the current formulation undermines executive accountability and saddled “our democracy with a headless, incoherent and dysfunctional opposition”.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa of UDA yesterday said he was not privy to the draft Bill. “I have not seen such amendments but I will support if it’s introduced (in Parliament),” he said. 

“I have not seen such amendments but I will support if it’s introduced (in Parliament),” the Kimilili MP said. 

Opposition leader’s office

Azimio, the second largest party in the country, seems to have seized the opportunity for the official opposition role, and is already warming up to the idea for the creation of the opposition leader’s office.

Mr Odinga has already declared war on President Ruto’s administration, and is expected to launch a series of anti-government drives beginning December 7.

The anti-government pushbacks endorsed during the Tuesday PG, Mr Odinga holds, will solicit support against “witch-hunt orchestrated against the four commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) — Vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera, Justus Nyang’aya, Irene Masit and Francis Wanderi”.

The decision to import GM maize by the government, insecurity across the country and high cost of living, are other reasons pushing Mr Odinga to mobilise the public to stop the government’s excesses.

Mr Musyoka had earlier on revealed plans by the coalition to form its shadow Cabinet that will put President Ruto’s administration in check to ensure proper utilisation of public resources.

He said it is through the shadow Cabinet that the coalition will put Dr Ruto’s government to task effectively.

The proposal for the creation of the office of the official opposition leader mirrors the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that was mooted by former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, which was, however, stopped by the courts over legality of the process.

Under the BBI proposal, the holder of the office would have been the person who receives the second-highest number of votes in a presidential election.

The proposals were designed to create a powerful office, with all the trappings of an alternative government, similar to the House of Commons in the United Kingdom Parliament.

The person serving as leader of opposition, under the BBI framework would have been the third in precedence in the National Assembly, after the speaker and the prime minister.

The office holder would, just as Mr Musyoka recently stated, appoint a Shadow Cabinet that mirrors the Cabinet in government to articulate alternative policies and keep the government in check.

In a shadow Cabinet arrangement, the leader of opposition appoints people to specific areas of policy to challenge their counterparts in government.

Summary of proposed Leader of Official Opposition role:

1. Be a symbol of national unity

2. Ensure protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

3. Scrutinise, criticise and make suggestions of improvements to legislation, policies and financial proposals by government.

4. Survey, appraise and criticise government administration.

5. Ventilate citizens’ grievances.

6. Address a special sitting of Parliament once every year and may address Parliament at any other time.

7. Examine expenditures and public accounts.

8. Seek information on and clarification of government policy and directives.

9. Appoint a representative to sit in various select committees for recruitment into the various constitutional and statutory commissions

10. Once every year, report, in an address to the nation on all measures taken and the progress achieved in holding the government of the day to account for its affairs and governance.

11. Publish in the Gazette the details of measures and progress achieved and submit a report for debate to the National Assembly on the progress made in fulfilling the international obligations of the republic.

12. Will be a state officer enjoying the trappings of power including hiring of staff.

13. Enjoy protection from legal proceedings