The dicey balance between the handshake and opposition politics has put the Orange Democratic Movement in a quandary.
Leading politicians in the party were first to throw shade at the new currency, even threatening to move to court to have it withdrawn, but they are now reading from a different script.
The sudden turnaround by National Assembly Minority Leader, also party chairman, John Mbadi on the currency has left party leaders with egg on face.
Mr Mbadi, who on Sunday termed the move by the Central Bank of Kenya to include a human face in the new note as unconstitutional, changed tune Tuesday, but asked for the deadline to return old notes be brought forward to August 1. He said this was the official position of ODM.
But the sudden shift continues to expose the opposition’s under belly, as ODM attempts to balance its commitment to the March 9, 2018 handshake between party leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta, while at the same time playing the opposition role of holding the same government in check.
The ODM’s move to criticise the government’s initiatives has of late sparked an uproar within and outside the party.
On Sunday, the move by the ODM Chairman and Senate Minority Leader James Orengo to criticise the new generation notes raised queries on the viability of the Raila-Uhuru handshake.
According to the two leaders, the notes bore faces of human beings, a move they termed unconstitutional and which may attract litigation aimed at stopping its implementation.
Speaking in Rongo, Migori County, on Sunday where they presided over a fundraiser in aid of St Martin De Pore Catholic Church, the leaders bluntly told the Head of State to ensure that the Constitution is adhered to.
But Mr Orengo said the handshake will not interfere with their opposition role. “We appreciate the handshake, but we will not be silent when we see the government openly violating the Constitution,” said Mr Orengo.
He added: “It is not our intention to be quiet. We remain the official opposition within and outside Parliament. We will continue with our oversight role.”
Mr Orengo, however, has not shied away from speaking his mind against the government, even at one point clashing with Mr Mbadi on the issue of impeaching Deputy President William Ruto alleging that his name had been mentioned in many graft cases.
Mr Mbadi however said that was not the party’s position. It is not the only instance that the opposition leaders have attacked their new partner.
Two weeks ago at a funeral in Yimbo, Siaya County, a section of MPs cast doubt on Mr Kenyatta’s willingness to fight corruption.
Uriri MP Mark Nyamita and his Bondo counterpart Gideon Ochanda said they were starting to wonder whether the President was committed to ensuring that those who are tainted with graft are successfully prosecuted.
The two leaders said that one of the reasons for the handshake was the Hhead of State’s promise to fight graft, which they felt was faltering.
“The fight against graft is affecting both sides. This is why fighting it is appearing to be very slippery and therefore slowing,” said Mr Ochanda.
But not all agree on criticising the government in the handshake era.
Migori Governor Zachary Obado, who shared a platform with Mr Orengo and Mr Mbadi, accused the two of hypocrisy.
Mr Obado said he was the first person to initiate the handshake in 2014 when he invited President Kenyatta to Migori to foster peace and bring development to the people.
“While you are in government, stop chasing other people away and ensure you are loyal instead of going against government programmes like you are doing right now,” said Mr Obado.
“If you are claiming that you are working together, why didn’t the president brief you of the planned launch of the new notes so that you could differ with him privately instead of doing it today in front of people?” posed the governor.
His sentiments were shared by Mr Salim Onyango Tosha, the team leader Bunge la Wananchi Kisumu. Mr Tosha asked Mr Orengo and Mr Mbadi to tame their tongues.
“We have had enough of the slip of tongues of our leaders. We are enjoying the tranquillity brought about by the handshake and we do not want this to stop.”