Ruto through his UDA party backs plans to create a powerful office for Azimio leader, Raila Odinga.
The UDA party of President William Ruto has declared its support for the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition’s proposal to establish the position of the Official Leader of the Opposition.
The position will have a wide range of authority, including the ability to appoint individuals to statutory constitutional commissions and deliver an annual address to Parliament. The Exchequer will provide the funding.
Even though UDA has already stated that it has nothing against the Bill, Azimio intends to press the government side to support it in order to ensure that it is passed.
“The President himself has repeatedly stated that he wants a strong opposition to check his government and as a party, we share his vision. I’ve not heard of any approach to our side to support that Bill, but if that request comes to me, I will sanction it because for us to have a fair government that serves its people effectively, the opposition must be allowed, and that’s democracy that we all cherish,” UDA National Chairman Johnson Muthama told the Nation.
Muthama however, warned that the drafters must ensure the Bill is fair and does not infringe on the rights of other office bearers.
“That office needed to be there yesterday, not even today. We are doing it too late. Those in government and opposition are in those positions by the will of the constitution,” Muthama said.
The Azimio Committee’s proposed amendment to Article 260 of the Constitution would classify the job of the opposition leader as a governmental office.
National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said having bipartisan support on any Bill on the floor of the House would not be impossible if such a Bill “seeks to benefit the people of Kenya.”
But even as the UDA chairman threw his weight behind the proposal, some MPs in the President’s party yesterday said the Bill might not have smooth sailing.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei and Belgut MP Nelson Koech said such a Bill is not a priority.
“The President has indicated that amendments to the constitution shall not be given priority. The creation of the office of the opposition leader shall unnecessarily strain the country’s resources,” Cherargei said. He added that the drafters of the Bill need to give convincing reasons to amend the constitution.
Mr. Koech, who chairs the National Assembly Defence Committee, said Azimio should make use of its leaders in the House to play the oversight role instead of seeking to amend the constitution to create other offices.
“We have more urgent issues pressing Kenyans at the moment including drought, famine, and high cost of living, surely a constitutional Bill to create the office of the leader of opposition can wait,” said Koech.