Kenya’s opposition said it will “swear in” its leader Raila Odinga as an alternative president today despite the attorney general’s warning that such a protest act challenging the official president will amount to treason.
The announcement by the National Super Alliance sets the stage for another round of election-related clashes between police and opposition supporters and raises fears of more civilian deaths.
The United States has advised Odinga against the so-called inauguration, as East Africa’s economic hub tries to move beyond months of deadly election turmoil. Police have vowed to block opposition supporters from attending the event.
“Whoever is thinking to come to Uhuru Park tell him or her not to attempt. We will not allow that,” said Nairobi Police chief Japheth Koome. The county government also announced the park is closed for renovations.
The heavy deployment of the police to Uhuru Park in Nairobi will not stop the ceremony, said Norman Magaya, the CEO of the opposition National Super Alliance. “If in this country we ever relied on the benevolence of the police, we would not have achieved anything democratically,” Magaya said.
“We have achieved everything we have achieved through defiance, through resistance and sustenance of a struggle to ensure we liberate ourselves from the yolk of the police state and dictatorship,”Magaya said.
Human rights groups and the opposition have long accused the Kenyan police of being used by the government to crush dissent. Rights advocates accuse President Kenyatta of veering toward dictatorship and accuse his administration of continuously violating Kenya’s constitutionally guaranteed freedoms including that of assembly and freedom expression.
Kenya’s editor’s guild said in a statement Monday that Kenyatta, in a private meeting with journalists and editors Friday, “expressly threatened to shut down and revoke the licenses of any media house” that would broadcast live Odinga’s protest event.
Odinga claims he won the presidential election despite the electoral commission’s official declaration that President Uhuru Kenyatta was the victor. The Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta’s August win after Odinga challenged it, claiming that hackers infiltrated the electoral commission’s computer system and changed results in favor of Kenyatta.
In the ruling, the first time a court had overturned a presidential election in Africa, the court cited irregularities and illegalities. It also said it ruled against Kenyatta because the commission refused to open its computer system for court scrutiny to dispel Odinga’s claims.