Tension in Kenya as opposition prepares to swear-in Odinga as alternate President
Nairobi, Jan. 29, 2018 (AltAfrika)-Kenya is staring at renewed political crisis if the main opposition party, the National Super Alliance (NASA), goes ahead with plans to swear in its leader, Raila Odinga, as “president” on Tuesday.
The purported swearing-in of Odinga and his co-principal, Kalonzo Musyoka, as president and deputy president, has triggered anxiety in Kenya a few months after the east African Nation endured a prolonged election season marked with ethnic polarization and sporadic violence.
Both ruling party and opposition supporters are concerned about the escalation of political crisis if Odinga and his co-principal are sworn in at a ceremony scheduled to take place at a public park in the capital, Nairobi.
Despite stern warning from the government, the opposition has vowed to install Odinga as the “People’s President,” alleging that stolen elections are to blame for his failure to occupy the highest office in the country.
The opposition’s first attempt to swear in Odinga as president on Dec. 12 was postponed to Jan. 30, and it appears unlikely that they will give in to pressure from foreign diplomats, religious and corporate leaders who fear an eruption of chaos.
So far, the government has maintained that the oath-taking ceremony is illegal, but opposition leaders remained defiant.
Attorney General Githu Muigai in December termed the purported swearing-in of Odinga as president a treasonable act that would attract severe penalty like death sentence.
Likewise, Deputy President William Ruto on Sunday stated that the government does not recognize Odinga’s swearing-in even as the opposition escalated the hubris on the purported exercise.
The opposition’s push to install Odinga as “president” intensified after Nov. 28 last year when President Uhuru Kenyatta took the oath of office to serve his second and final term in office.
The opposition boycotted the Oct. 26 repeat presidential elections where Kenyatta was declared the winner, having garnered 98 percent of the votes cast.
Odinga withdrew from the repeat polls citing failure by the electoral agency to carry out radical administrative reforms that would make the exercise free, credible and transparent.
In a ruling on Sept. 1 last year, Kenya’s supreme court ordered the electoral body to organize repeat polls after it nullified the Aug. 8 presidential elections over gross malpractices.
The prolonged election season last fall triggered an unprecedented political crisis in Kenya which was marked by violent demonstrations, deaths and ethnic balkanization.
Kenyatta’s swearing-in, and naming of cabinet last Friday, is yet to cool political temperatures as the opposition vows to go on with the oath-taking ceremony.
The Nairobi County government and police have already declared Uhuru Park, where the swearing-in ceremony is slated to take place, a no-go zone, even as the opposition refuse to budge.
Opposition luminaries over the weekend insisted they will use the grounds for oath-taking ceremony, hence escalating a standoff with authorities.
NASA CEO Norman Magaya said during a television interview on Monday morning that the opposition will not back down, even as questions mounted over the legality of the exercise.
The constitution stipulates that a president can only be sworn into office by registrar of the judiciary in the presence of the chief justice after being declared winner of an election by the chairman of the polls body.
Most Kenyans agreed that the swearing-in of Odinga as president could mark the beginning of a political crisis that could undermine economic growth and social cohesion in the country.
George Kithi, a Nairobi-based legal practitioner, warned that Odinga’s swearing-in as president, though it could placate his ardent followers, risks undermining the rule of law and the country’s stability.
“What the opposition leaders and the general public should be asking themselves is whether subverting the constitution to achieve political goals will strengthen or undermine our fragile democracy,” Kithi said during a live television interview.
He emphasized that a structured dialogue between the government and opposition is key to ending the political stalemate gripping the country.