United for once: Parliament endorses Uhuru-Raila deal

Kenya’s political history seemed destined for a dramatic shift yesterday as all political affiliations set aside their differences to pledge support for the unity deal signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga last Friday.

Despite grumblings about non-involvement and calls for broader, structured dialogue, all the key political leaders sung from the same script. They lauded the deal as a timely step towards healing the divisions that have dogged the country since the last elections, and before.

But the pact, whose finer details have yet to be worked out, has left many unanswered questions about the place of the Opposition, which should check the Executive.

Some cynics have expressed fears of the country drifting back to monolithic single-party rule after Raila on Tuesday told his ODM party — the main opposition party — to work with the ruling Jubilee, effectively handing Uhuru a possible smooth five-year ride.

The ODM leader said supporting the government was the only viable way of dealing with historical and underlying issues affecting Kenyans.

Twin motions to seek the opinion of Parliament for the unity deal were moved in the Senate and National Assembly by NASA legislators and received resounding endorsement.

That came as NASA partner parties scrambled for a place at the table, with Wiper Party Leader Kalonzo Musyoka announcing that he and his two co-principals had, too, asked to meet Uhuru for an ‘all-inclusive dialogue’.

Kalonzo said after a meeting with Ukambani Church leaders at the African Brotherhood Church headquarters in Machakos on Wednesday that no peace-loving leader would oppose constructive dialogue aimed at providing solutions to the country.

He said he had mooted the idea of a dialogue before or after the controversial January 30 swearing-in by Raila he skipped.

“We believe in constructive dialogue. The three of us, Wetang’ula, Mudavadi and I, may have to meet President Uhuru so that we hear from him,” said Kalonzo.

“If he agrees, we will meet him. It has to be an all-inclusive dialogue,” he insisted, adding hat the motion in Parliament should have waited until next week, when other parties in the NASA coalition will have met the President.

The Wiper Party leader however urged his party MPs to support the motion with a rider that there had to be an all-inclusive dialogue.

With Opposition MPs cooperating with the government, it remains to be seen how they will hold the Executive to account through parliamentary watchdog committees, which could be turned into rubberstamps.

Yesterday Kitui Central MP Makau Mulu warned that Parliament’s oversight role was under siege from an Executive on the rampage. He asked Speaker Justin Muturi to rise up to the occasion and guide the House to hold the government to account.

“Uhuru and Raila now represent the Executive, it is your [Muturi’s] time to take your position and lead us to play our role as an oversight institution,” he said in Parliament.

An economist, Mulu was apprehensive that the Uhuru-Raila union might deal a deathblow to the Opposition’s push for inclusivity, zero corruption and employment for the young people.

“This dialogue should not be for tumbocracy [self aggrandizement], it should not be about getting positions and exchanging deals; this dialogue should be for purposes of the public good,” warned Mulu.

Uhuru and Raila agreed to push for shared interests contained in a nine-point agenda that has triggered reservations it could suffocate the Opposition and prevent it from performing its oversight role.

These include: Offering political alternatives, improving parliamentary decision-making procedures, putting alternatives to the decisions proposed by the government and also scrutinising the legislative and budgetary proposals of the government.

Only last December Uhuru bashed the Raila-led Opposition for allegedly being weak in its oversight role to scrutinise and seriously inquire about government programmes in his first term.

“For the past five years as key government decisions were made — on infrastructure programmes, education, health and on military action against al Shabaab — none faced the serious scrutiny that should be expected from an Opposition in Parliament,” Uhuru said in an article published in The Washington Times.

Uhuru had argued that the Opposition had failed in its role to build a more democratic, and freer country.

“We have an Opposition that is competitive in elections, capable of rallying thousands to their cause, and with considerable strength in Parliament,” he said in his 769-word piece titled “Kenya deserves a strong and credible Opposition”.

 

Source The Star

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