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When Odinga swore in as ‘People’s President’

Kenya’s opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition leader Raila Odinga (C) holds up a bible as he swears-in himself as the ‘people’s president’ on January 30, 2018 in Nairobi.

NASA’s Musyoka, Mudavadi skip event

Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | Huge crowds gathered at Uhuru Park in Nairobi to witness the swearing in of Kenya’s Leader of Opposition, Raila Odinga as the ‘People’s President’ on Jan. 30. Earlier in the day, the government shut down three television stations; Citizen TV, KTN and NTV and had also warned media houses against broadcasting the event of the leader of the National Super Alliance (NASA) swearing in.

Deputy President William Ruto had told a church congregation a few days before NASA’s planed activity that the government does not recognize the swearing in of Odinga. He added that the Kenyan people had elected their leaders in 2017 and the government was now focusing on development.

Odinga took the oath, administered by Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang, in an act not lasting more than ten minutes. He was surrounded by close allies Miguna Miguna, Siaya Senator James Orengo, and Mombasa Governor William Joho as thousands of supporters cheered him.

Odinga’s co-principals in NASA like Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula (NASA) were absent but Odinga said Musyoka would be sworn in another day as the deputy people’s president.

“I Raila Amollo Odinga, in full realization, of the high calling, assume the office of the People’s president of the Republic of Kenya, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the people and the Republic of Kenya,” said Odinga. He also swore to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of Kenya.

The swearing in of Odinga had been initially scheduled for December 2017, months after his rival, Uhuru Kenyatta, took his oath as President of Kenya. For six months, Kenya has been embroiled in a political crisis that has bitterly divided the nation and derailed East Africa’s largest economy.

Odinga petitioned Kenya’s Supreme Court after he deemed the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta on Aug.8, 2017 a sham. On Sept. 1, the Kenyan Supreme Court annulled the election citing massive irregularities by the country’s election body, the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC). As the country prepared for a fresh election, Odinga withdrew from the poll and asked his supporters to shun voting. The 2017 presidential election was Odinga’s fourth and the second where he was facing off with Kenyatta.

The repeat presidential election happened on Oct. 26 but with only supporters of Kenyatta taking part. Since then, it has been protests and demonstrations as supporters of Odinga clashed regularly with the police.

Odinga’s oath is also happening at the time Kenyatta’s new cabinet has faced criticism over inclusiveness. The president has also been criticized over a new position he has added to his cabinet set up- Chief Administrative Secretary, which many analysts say will likely duplicate the role of Principal Secretary.

Kenyan activists and journalists criticized the shutting down of the television stations. Boniface Mwangi, photographer turned activist posted on Facebook: “President Uhuru Kenyatta behaving more and more like his political father, Moi. Threatening and shutting down media houses is DICTATORSHIP! President Uhuru, your attempt to follow in the footsteps of dictator Moi, will totally fail. The year is 2018 and we shall not allow Kenya to slide back to dictatorship and censorship. Leave the media alone!”

The Kenya Editors Guild also put out a statement expressing concern on the trend of media intimidation taking toot in the country. “We would like to state it with all the clarity we can that the media is not an actor in the ongoing contest between Jubilee and NASA over the outcome of the last General Election. The Media remains a mere messenger and a chronicler of any events happening in our country,” the statement read in part, signed by Linus Kaikai, Chairman of Kenya Editor’s Guild.

The swearing in of Raila Odinga is likely to increase political tension in a country still recovering from a deeply divisive election. As soon as the election ended, debates and maneuvers on Kenyatta’s succession had already set forth. Constitution of the current cabinet has reportedly caused a rift between Kenyatta and his deputy and recently, Odinga told Ruto that the deputy needed him as the two strategize for the 2022 election.

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