Op­po­si­tion leader takes mock pres­i­den­tial oath

Cer­e­mony risks charge of trea­son, deep­ens di­vide.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By David Herbling and Sa­muel Ge­bre Bloomberg News

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.

AN­DREW RENNEISEN / GETTY IMAGES

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.

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