Odinga’s mock inauguration as president
The dangerous turn of events in which Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga, the other day inaugurated himself as president in a mock swearing-in ceremony portends grave danger for a country that is still trying to contain a controversial presidential election, which almost plunged the country into another round of crisis.
Though, it was a mere symbolic gesture, Odinga’s inauguration, which was a direct challenge to re-elect President Uhuru Kenyatta could precipitate crisis and mass killings by rival political groups and thereby plunge the country into anarchy.
A similar inauguration by Nigeria’s Chief M.K.O. Abiola in 1994 led to his arrest and incarceration by the military junta Sani Abacha’s government, which charged him of treason. Abiola was kept virtually in solitary confinement for four years until his ultimate death in detention.
Nigeria’s experience ought to be a bitter lesson to Raila Odinga and his supporters not to follow the same path to destroying their country and even Odinga’s own political career. The only saving grace is that the two scenarios are different – one was military while the other is democratic. Even at that, no government would like to be challenged on its authority having been legitimised by the law.
Odinga will do well to stay on the moral high ground. The fact that he does not control the police, army or any other security outfit makes his plunge a very risky one. That inauguration was definitely not good for his image.
Odinga was sworn in as the “people’s president” amidst cheers at the popular Uhuru Park in Nairobi two months after his rival, President Uhuru Kenyatta won election and was sworn in for a second term.
Clinching a Bible on his right hand with which he took the oath of “office” administered by MP T.J. Kajwang, who appeared in full court regalia, Odinga declared that the day’s event was one step towards doing away with electoral autocracy and the establishment of proper democracy in Kenya.
Kajwang on his part told journalists that he was excited to be the one to make sure that National Super Alliance (NASA) leader, Raila Odinga took oath of office as President in a controversial exercise.
Since the inauguration, Kenyan authorities have taken measured steps to deal with the matter. Although, the security operatives made no attempt to stop the inauguration, which the authorities said would be illegal, government later declared the opposition “National Resistance Movement” a criminal group, paving the way for potential arrests.
The government also suspended television and radio stations that aired the event to enable supporters of Odinga watch him take the symbolic presidential oath in Nairobi. Though, a Kenyan court eventually ordered the suspension of government shutdown of the stations.
Furthermore, Kenya has deported opposition supporter and lawyer, Miguna Miguna, following the role he played in the “swearing-in” of Raila Odinga as “the people’s president.” This came after he was charged with treason-related offences. Miguna has since fled boarded a plane that took him to Canada where he is also a citizen.
While Kenya’s Attorney General Githu Muigai described the swearing-in as treasonable act, which could attract death penalty, the Chief Justice David Maraga criticised the government for not following court orders to release Mr. Miguna on bail.
In an unprecedented statement, he said, “Compliance with court orders is not optional but a constitutional obligation.”
Sadly, many African leaders are guilty of this offense. They defy court orders while presumably protecting the rule of law. But the rule of law should apply equally to all citizens as nobody is above the law.
It is not yet clear how soon the dust raised by Odinga’s mock inauguration would settle as events keep unfolding and Odinga has said he is “willing to die” in the struggle to correct electoral injustices.
It would be recalled that the electoral crisis in Kenya erupted after the country’s Supreme Court, in a historic ruling, nullified the contentious August 8, 2017 presidential election in which the incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta, was declared winner. Mr. Odinga had challenged the result on the ground that the poll was rigged through hacking into the country’s electoral system computers.
The Supreme Court in its verdict ordered that a new vote should be held within 60 days after it said the outcome of the initial vote was tainted with irregularities. The verdict was the first of its kind in Africa. Ever since then, Kenya has known no peace.
The re-run election held on October 26, 2017 was again won by Uhuru Kenyatta after which he was sworn in as President. But Odinga did not take part in the re-run, alleging that government planned to rig it.
Since Odinga lost the two elections, particularly, the re-run on the ground of his non-participation, taking laws into his own hands is certainly not the right way to go. The interest of Kenya should be uppermost to him as a mark of patriotism.
Whereas Kenya politics has for long been dominated by the Kenyattas and the Odingas, the onus lies on the two to build Kenya rather than destroy it. Patriotism, and not selfish interest, should rule. And both scions of the Odinga and Kenyalta dynasties should avoid any act that could cause commotion and destroy their beloved country.
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