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Opposition leader Raila Odinga sworn in as "people’s president" | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga [in white shirt and black cap] gestures to his supporters at Uhuru Park in Nairobi. Kenya’s main opposition party, National Super Alliance (NASA), on Tuesday "swore in" its leader Raila Odinga as "People’s President" amid jubilation from thousands of supporters who witnessed the ceremony at a public park in the capital of Nairobi. XINHUA PHOTOS - CHEN CHENG

Opposition leader Raila Odinga sworn in as "people’s president"

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s main opposition party, National Super Alliance (NASA), on Tuesday "swore in" its leader Raila Odinga as "People’s President" amid jubilation from thousands of supporters who witnessed the ceremony at a public park in the capital of Nairobi.

Odinga took the oath of office as people’s president at a ceremony presided over by opposition lawyers, assuring his supporters that the struggle for greater democratic space, liberty and freedom had just began.

"Today we have just begun the journey of liberating this country from shackles of bad governance, inequality and exclusion.

"This oath signifies our resolve to achieve electoral justice in the country," Odinga remarked while holding a green Bible to his right arm and sandwiched by opposition lawmakers as excited supporters waved the national flag.

Thousands of his supporters thronged the historic Uhuru Park grounds to witness the "swearing-in." Odinga’s running mate Kalonzo Musyoka was not at the event but Odinga said he would take the oath later.

"Kalonzo is still with us, he will be sworn in later due to reasons that you will be informed on a later day," he said.

Odinga became the first opposition leader to be sworn in as parallel president in post-independence Kenya in a ceremony that was skipped by his three co-principals in the opposition alliance.

The 73-year-old veteran of Kenya’s opposition politics fulfilled a vow he had made earlier to be sworn in as people’s president, alleging that a fraudulent electoral system had denied him a chance to occupy the highest office in the land.

Speaking earlier to a local media house on phone, Odinga dismissed claims that Tuesday’s ceremony is an attempted coup, saying that the opposition will demonstrate to Kenya and the world that the oathing process is legal.

"We don’t recognize the Oct. 26 election because 80 percent of Kenyans did not participate in the process.

"The will of the people is unstoppable and today is the first step to Canaan.

"No doubt that our journey to Canaan is real and unstoppable," Odinga said ahead of his "swearing in."

He stressed that NASA was only pushing for electoral justice, judicial independence, ethnic inclusivity, strengthening devolution and instituting police reforms.

"Today is a very historical day for the nation of Kenya, I would say the most important day since the independence of this country," he said and accused the government of switching off television stations which were transmitting the event live.

"It’s very unfortunate what has happened today, and it confirms that we have descended to the levels of Uganda. We did not expect that this will come to our country and it must stand condemned," Odinga said.


Kenya political tension escalates as opposition vows to swear in own "president

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- 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.



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