Opposition leader takes mock presidential oath
Ceremony risks charge of treason, deepens divide.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga swore an oath of office declaring himself the so-called people’s president in a mock ceremony that risked deepening the fraught political divisions in the East African nation.
Odinga read the oath in the presence of Advocate Tom Kajwang, an opposition lawmaker, instead of being administered the pledge by the country’s chief or deputy chief justice, as required by the constitution. Kalonzo Musyoka, the National Super Alliance’s candidate for deputy president, and co-principal leader Musalia Mudavadi didn’t attend the ceremony.
“I thank you for the respect you’ve shown by turning up for today’s ceremony,” Odinga told thousands of cheering supporters at Uhuru Park on the fringe of Nairobi’s central business district. “Today is an historic day in Kenya. Kenyans have taken a step of getting rid of a dictatorship that came through vote rigging.”
Kenya’s government had threatened to charge Odinga with treason if he proceeded with the swearing-in. The opposition went ahead with the ceremony after rejecting the outcome of a repeat presidential vote in October in which President Uhuru Kenyatta secured a second term. The alliance says it has evidence that Odinga won an Aug. 8 election that was later annulled by the Supreme Court after the electoral commission failed to disprove an opposition claim the ballot was rigged.
“We are giving too much attention to a process that is of no consequence,” Ekuru Aukot, a lawyer and former presidential candidate, said in an interview broadcast on KTN News. The swearing-in has “no legal effect, no constitutional effect, something that is against our own law.”
Odinga’s alliance has pledged to form a People’s Assembly, effectively a parallel government, to push for fresh elections and other reforms including an overhaul of the electoral system, a more inclusive government that better represents the country’s ethnic groups and greater independence for the judiciary.
The swearing-in may deepen the standoff between Odinga and Kenyatta and lead to a prolonged standoff between the opposition and the government, said Murithi Mutiga, senior Horn of Africa analyst at the International Crisis Group.
“This is a more direct challenge to Kenyatta politically,” he said by phone. “There could be a lull before the storm as there may be elements in government who may want a crackdown, but if they do that, it will be a serious mistake that will worsen things.”
Western diplomats have urged the two sides to negotiate to avoid a repeat of violence that erupted over last year’s disputed votes. Clashes between opposition supporters and security forces in the wake of the elections left at least 92 people dead.
The Interior Ministry on Tuesday banned the National Resistance Movement. The NRM was formed late last year to organize boycotts of products and services offered by companies the alliance deemed supportive of Kenyatta’s election.
Live broadcasts of Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony by Nation Media Group’s Nation TV and Royal Media Services’s Citizen TV and KTN were cut mid-morning.
Kenyan opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga takes the presidential oath of office Tuesday in a mock swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi. Supporters say Odinga won the Aug. 8 election.