Kenya: Two Elections and “Two Presidents”?

On Tuesday, Kenya’s main opposition leader Raila Odinga, declared himself president at a highly controversial swearing in ceremony in Nairobi, the countries capital. At the rally, Odinga declared himself “president of the people”.

Following last year’s annulment of August’s presidential election due to “irregularities and illegalities”, a re-election in November which was boycotted by Odinga resulted in Uhuru Kenyatta winning his second and final term.

During the controversial event, authorities carried out a media blackout rather than using the police to disperse the event. Media executives were warned that they would be shut down if they reported on the swearing in during a meeting with Kenyatta. This swearing in was obviously purely ceremonial and therefore in no way bestows any formal presidential authority on Odinga but sends a strong message to Kenyatta and has garnered mixed reactions from different groups.  For Kenyan journalists, Odingas actions demonstrate a blatant disrespect for the constitution as it led to clear repression and intimidation. For supporters of Odinga, the Constitution allows for them to have public gatherings, therefore peacefully gathering to watch their presidents swearing in was constitutional.

Odinga  may have sworn himself in as “president of the people” in the hope that his actions will put more pressure on the president and push him to listen to the opposition and their grievances. In a country that is highly divided and with a history of violence and clashes between the police and protesters, analysts at the International Crisis Group have warned that  the swearing in may lead to a harsh response from Kenyatta which may result in clashes between supporters of the two party leaders.

To avoid fresh clashes in the country that may be reminiscent of the 2007 post-election violence, Kenyatta may need to exercise caution in his response.

Featured image: Raila Odinga| DEMOSH: flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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