The drama of Mr. Raila Odinga’s “swearing in” as the “People’s President” of the Republic of Kenya, after he had boycotted the country’s last presidential election, would have been funny but for the danger it portends for the country and democracy in general. By appointing himself a parallel president, he took Kenya to the brink of civil disorder and political instability. Unless he retraces his steps, he may plunge Kenya into a fresh round of ethnic warfare, if not civil war. And, he would have done so for no other reason than his personal and selfish political ambition.
The issues are straightforward. On August 8, 2017, the presidential election in Kenya pitted the Jubilee Alliance led by Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta against the National Super Alliance (NASA) led by Mr. Raila Odinga. When the votes were counted, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the electoral umpire, declared that President Kenyatta had won 8.2 million votes, (54 per cent) to Mr. Odinga’s 6.8 million votes (45 per cent). The election monitors declared the election to be free and fair and they included credible organisations like the European Union, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and others. Unhappy with the results, Odinga went to court. The Kenyan Supreme Court, in an unprecedented ruling, upheld his claims and ordered fresh elections to be held in 60 days. Odinga began making unreasonable demands on the electoral commission, including asking for a re-constitution of the commission before the election which, given the timeframe, was impossible to do. The election re-run was conducted on October 17 with Odinga leading a boycott of the poll. When the returns were computed, Kenyatta won 7.4 million votes (98.2 per cent), while Odinga received a paltry 73,000 votes (0.96 per cent). Kenyatta was, therefore, declared elected and was sworn-in for a second term on November 28.
We had expected Odinga to accept the verdict of the voters, congratulate Kenyatta and pledge to work with him in the interest of Kenya. On the contrary, Odinga engaged in politically provocative acts. On the day Kenyatta was being sworn in, Odinga was addressing his supporters trying to delegitimise the Kenyatta government, and calling for fresh elections. He said he was setting up a “National Resistance Movement” with the stated intention of establishing a parallel government in Kenya. The swearing-in ceremony seems to be the actualisation of that parallel government. Odinga has also reportedly noted on his Twitter handle that he is now the “President of the Republic of Kenya.”
We are not surprised at the reaction of the Kenyan government and its decision to force into exile the Kenyan lawyer, Miguna Miguna, who was said to have administered the so-called “presidential” oath on Odinga. We are also not surprised, though we are disappointed, by the Kenyan government’s attack on the media, including the shutting down of Citizen TV.
Odinga’s conduct is as befuddling as it is ridiculous for a politician of his stature. For a 73-year old, it is unbecoming and utterly disappointing. It is a betrayal of his inner weaknesses and a confession of his vaulting ambition. It also unmistakably demonstrates his insatiable urge for power. Odinga has come to represent everything Africans want to forget about their politicians.
He is manipulating the ethnic cleavages in Kenya, hoping to set off an explosion. He is goading the Kenyatta administration into a fight so as to set the country on fire. These are not the acts of a statesman but the machinations of an anarchist. What Odinga has done is treasonable.
We commend President Kenyatta for his forbearance and patience. He should continue to avoid picking up a fight with Odinga and continue to respect him as a senior citizen. If he must confront Odinga, it must be strictly by the best practices of the rule of law. Odinga is begging for crisis and victimhood. Kenyatta must deny him that opportunity.