Kenyan Crisis Deepens as Opposition Set to Inaugurate Leader

Updated on
  • Thousands of opposition supporters throng main park in Nairobi
  • Live broadcasts cut off as government seeks to stop coverage

Kenya’s main opposition alliance defied warnings of a crackdown and prepared to inaugurate its leader as a so-called people’s president, threatening to deepen the East African nation’s political crisis.

Thousands of National Super Alliance supporters thronged Uhuru Park on the edge of Nairobi’s city center on Tuesday afternoon, awaiting the arrival of their leader Raila Odinga. The streets of the city were quieter than usual. There was no visible police presence at the rally, despite government warnings that swearing in Odinga would amount to treason. Live broadcasts of the event were cut off.

“This is something that is unstoppable,” Odinga said in an interview with Nairobi-based KTN News broadcast via its website. “This is just the beginning of a new journey. Today is a very historical day for the nation of Kenya.”

Nasa is inaugurating Odinga and his deputy, Kalonzo Musyoka, after rejecting the outcome of a repeat presidential vote in October in which President Uhuru Kenyatta secured a second term. The alliance says it has evidence that Odinga won an Aug. 8 election that was later annulled by the Supreme Court after the electoral commission failed to disprove an opposition claim the ballot was rigged.

Police Crackdowns

The standoff could provoke protests, further police crackdowns and bloodshed, while deepening already dangerous levels of polarization in Kenya, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a statement. At least 92 people died in clashes between Kenyan security forces and opposition supporters during last year’s election period, according to the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights.

“Odinga should call off the ceremony; President Kenyatta should agree to an audit of Kenya’s electoral authorities,” the ICG said. “Kenyan leaders also should consider some form of national convention to discuss reforms to lower the stakes of political competition.”

Shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange advanced 0.5 percent and the shilling traded steady against the dollar by 2:03 p.m. in Nairobi.

‘Rogue State’

Kenya’s financial markets “may be a little slow due to local institutions running on skeleton staff in case the political events turn messy,” said Kenneth Minjire, head of securities at Genghis Capital Ltd.

Live broadcasts of the event by Nation Media Group’s Nation TV and Royal Media Services Ltd.’s Citizen TV and KTN were cut mid-morning, after the government warned last week it would revoke the licenses of companies that broadcast footage of the ceremony. Royal Media Services Managing Director Wachira Waruru said the company has asked the government to explain the reason for Tuesday’s switch-off.

Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and ICT Secretary Joe Mucheru met Kenyan media managers on Jan. 26 to warn them not to broadcast Tuesday’s proceedings, according to the Kenya Editors Guild, a Nairobi-based media body. Broadcasters were threatened with having their licenses revoked if they broadcast the event live, it said.

“Today is a typical example of a rogue state,” Odinga said. “We are seeing the return of an authoritarian, imperial presidency in our country. They rule by fiat and this is what must be resisted.”

— With assistance by Adelaide Changole

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