NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya on
Tuesday overcame a much anticipated political storm when the
main opposition party, National Super Alliance (NASA) swore in
Raila Odinga as the "people’s president" in a peaceful and brief
ceremony witnessed by thousands of jubilant supporters.
Odinga who took the oath of office as "president" in an event
that was skipped by his co-principals reiterated his commitment
to fight for greater democratic space, equality, freedom and
good governance in Kenya.
His three co-principals clarified in a joint statement that
they remained committed to the opposition’s quest for electoral
reforms and accountable leadership despite their absence from
the oath-taking ceremony.
Dressed in African themed attire, Odinga told an ecstatic
crowd that his swearing in as "people’s president" fulfilled the
aspirations of Kenyans yearning for greater freedoms,
inclusivity and peaceful co-existence.
He told his supporters that the oath signified the opposition
resolve to achieve electoral justice in the country.
Odinga became the first opposition leader to be sworn in as
"parallel president" in post-independence Kenya, hence massive
anxiety on the outcome of an exercise that was labeled illegal
by the government.
It is not clear what the opposition leader will do next since
Kenya has President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto.
Earlier on, the government banned live coverage of the oath
taking ceremony by several main television stations in the
country thus eliciting rebuke from rights campaigners and
Nevertheless, the privately owned television stations still
managed to live stream the event through their digital
Odinga who celebrated his 73rd birthday early this year
managed to placate his ardent followers when he agreed to be
sworn in as "people’s president" despite resistance from the
Contrary to doomsday prediction by seasoned political and
security experts, the opposition swearing in of their "own
president" failed to produce tragic outcomes like violent
confrontation with police.
The ceremony was an anticlimax since there was no bloodshed,
looting and street battles that were predicted by pundits.
Experts said Odinga’s swearing-in as "people’s president"
carried heavy symbolic meaning that should not be ignored by
both sides of the political divide.
Herman Manyora, a Nairobi-based political analyst said the
peaceful oath taking ceremony could herald a new beginning in
Kenya’s political rejuvenation.
"The fact that the swearing ceremony of opposition chief as
the people’s president was conducted in a peaceful environment
is a confirmation that our democracy has matured hence the need
for political players to seize the moment and agree to dialogue
for the sake of unity and stability," Manyora said.
He lauded the government for its tactical decision to
withdraw security forces from the grounds where the opposition
swore in their own "president".
"It was prudent for the police to keep off a largely peaceful
ceremony and prevent a dangerous altercation with opposition
supporters," said Manyora.
As Kenya moves past anxieties that engulfed the country ahead
of opposition swearing of their own "president", international
partners urged structured dialogue among political players to
promote healing and reconciliation.
The International Crisis Group, a global think tank, said in
a statement that Kenyan political leaders should move away from
hardline positions and engage in search for a durable solution
to polarization that peaked during the last election cycle.
"Time is running short, but both sides should urgently show
restraint: Odinga should call off the ceremony; President
Kenyatta should agree to an audit of Kenya’s electoral
"Kenyan leaders also should consider some form of national
convention to discuss reforms to lower the stakes of political
competition," ICG said.