Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga (pictured) swore himself in as ‘people’s president’ at a brief and low-key ceremony before thousands of cheering supporters in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park at 2.45 pm on Tuesday ignoring warnings that the act could amount to treason.
The event comes two months after President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term following an election re-run in October. Odinga boycotted Kenyatta’s inauguration alleging that the vote was stolen from him and that he, not Kenyatta, is Kenya’s rightful leader.
The authorities shut down TV stations on Tuesday to prevent live coverage of the swearing-in ceremony.
National Super Alliance (Nasa) principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula did not attend the ceremony much to the disappointment of Odinga’s supporters and hinting at divisions in Nasa.
Ruaraka lawmaker TJ Kajwang, who was present, administered him the oath of office as ‘people’s president’, not ‘Kenya’s president’, to avoid litigation and arrest.
“Today is a historic day in Kenya because Kenyans have taken steps to remove a dictatorial and authoritarian regime from power — a regime brought about by election-rigging,” Odinga said referring to incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta whose inauguration he had boycotted last year.
Later in the day, the Kenyatta government branded the National Resistance Movement — a loose network established by the opposition after the elections — a “criminal group”.
Kenya faced a political crisis after the Supreme Court rejected the results of an August election won by Kenyatta due to irregularities. Fresh election was held on October 26. Kenyatta won by a huge margin after Odinga boycotted the election calling it a sham. Dozens of people were killed in clashes during voting.
Immediately after Kenyatta’s inauguration, Odinga vowed to hold his own swearing-in, which the attorney general said could amount to treason.
On the eve of the ceremony, the non-profit International Crisis Group warned that Odinga’s swearing-in could lead to police crackdown, destruction and bloodshed.
However, Tuesday’s event passed off peacefully probably because the ruling Jubilee Party and Kenyatta downplayed the event to avoid any violence.
Odinga’s swearing-in was more symbolic since there was no judge to administer him the oath. Kajwang wore an advocate’s robe and wig while administering him the oath but he was only a lawmaker.
After his ‘swearing-in’, Odinga updated his official Twitter account to read: “His Excellency Raila Amolo Odinga, President of the Republic of Kenya.”