President William Ruto is facing a tough balancing act in implementing his administration’s policies amid a restive opposition determined to erode his legitimacy and make it difficult for him to govern.
Yesterday, opposition leader Raila Odinga, who had given the President a 14-day ultimatum that ends today to, among others, open the elections servers and address the cost of living, raised the pressure as he dismissed a panel appointed to recruit new electoral commissioners.
Addressing journalists after a visit to Parliament Buildings yesterday, Mr Odinga termed the selectional panel to pick a new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) team “rubbish”, saying they do not recognise it.
President Ruto, observers say, has to contend with a “complex opposition,” that is fully backed by an immediate former President and nearly his entire Cabinet.
Mr Odinga, the runners-up in last year’s presidential election, has insisted that he was rigged out, and launched pushbacks against President Ruto’s administration that are expected to climax with mass action.
The mass action threats could stifle foreign and local investment, while the nationwide rallies have put the country in a campaign mood. The illegitimacy tag on President Ruto could also seem to water down his authority in the international community.
The President’s policies, including the removal of subsidies on basic commodities and tax hikes, have given the opposition enough fodder to hit at the government.
With Mr Odinga’s ultimatum coming to an end tomorrow, anxiety continues to mount over Kenyans on the opposition’s next cause of action, which insiders have said could include a boycott of certain products from companies that backed President Ruto as well as civil disobedience.
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta, who backed Mr Odinga in the last election, has declared his unequivocal support for the activities of the opposition leader, further threatening to derail his successor’s administration.
“I have been the President for 10 years but right now I’m retired but not tired. Even if I am not in active politics, I am still a follower of Raila. What he tells me to do, I must do,” Mr Kenyatta said in Vihiga County last month.
Prof Macharia Munene of the United States International University argues that the country finds itself in an unusual situation “where a former president and his successor are in active conflict”.
“It is possible that players now out of government have access to security-related information and have extensive networks in the world security such that they are fully briefed. This implies that the current government may not be in control of security practically or conceptually,” he says.
Governance expert Javas Bigambo agrees that every new government suffers the tragedy of “information leaks, gaps and convoluted trust-building”.
But adds that “Even though former President Kenyatta remains an asset to the opposition, by the fact that he has no ambition for any higher office, he will not commit his best and all his resources merely to support Raila or fight Ruto.” He says that history shows that every new regime experiences the challenges President Ruto is facing, until after about a year in office.
“President Ruto will easily demonstrate his firmness and dexterity of statecraft after about a year but what he needs to do now is demonstrate keenness for open governance, good governance and empathy with the economic plight of the people, and institute mechanisms to make it bearable,” says Mr Bigambo.
Mr Odinga has said that he will make a major announcement on his next political move tomorrow.
The Nation has established that Mr Odinga is set to launch a multifaceted roadmap on his mass action plan which could include “unlawful usurpation of state power”, tax boycott, civil disobedience and street protests.
National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi yesterday reiterated that mass action will proceed alongside the people’s barazas across the country.
“We will demonstrate to this government that we have the people’s support,” he said.
Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said Mr Odinga has an elaborate plan to deal with the Kenya Kwanza administration.
“Mass action is not necessarily going to the streets. There could be other things like product and tax boycott as well as civil disobedience where the public would be urged to refuse to heed to the authorities,” said Mr Osotsi.
Multimedia University Lecturer Prof Gitile Naituli lamented: “It looks like the country never finished electioneering ... the government continues to campaign through what they are calling thanksgiving prayers while opposition is also campaigning through what they call people’s barazas.”
He added that loyalty to the country has been disrupted because many people feel the government is committing an injustice “, especially in terms of the skewed appointment in the public service”.