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Kenya Government Shuts Down Media As Opposition Leader Swears Himself In As President

On Jan. 30, Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga, swore himself in as the “people’s president”. The Kenyan government responded by warning media stations not to cover the event and announced Odinga was committing high treason.

The leader of the opposition in Kenya, Raila Odinga, has sworn himself in as the people’s president. This is despite Uhuru Kenyatta being the sitting, and a legitimately elected president of the African nation. Raila swore himself in on Jan. 30 amidst thunderous cheers from thousands of supporters.

The government of Kenya downplayed the matter and warned Odinga that he was about to commit high treason. Odinga responded by saying he was ready to die for the people of Kenya.

Raila Odinga

Uhuru Kenyatta on the left, Raila Odinga on the right. By Amanda Lucidon (Uhuru Kenyatta photograph) / World Economic Forum (Raila Odinga photograph) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Elections in this East African country have for long been a volatile affair.

In 2007 – 2008, post-election violence in Kenya led to the death of over 1,300 people and over 600,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki, the main contenders in the election, proceeded to form a coalition government in a deal brokered by former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

Following the humanitarian crisis, the International Criminal Court sought to prosecute six high-profile Kenyans, charging them with crimes against humanity. Among them were Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto who ran for president in the 2013 elections and managed to beat Raila Odinga.

Kenyatta became the president while Ruto became the deputy president.

The charges at the ICC were later dropped for lack of evidence.

In the Aug. 2017 Kenya elections, Kenyatta and Odinga ran for president again. Kenyatta won with 54 percent of the vote.

Kenyan Supreme Court annuls Kenyatta’s August 2017 victory.

Odinga disputed the results and filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Kenya. In what was termed as a historic ruling, the court annulled Kenyatta’s victory and ordered for a fresh election within 60 days.

Odinga vowed to ensure justice for the people of Kenya and, together with his supporters, presented a list of demands to the electoral commission of Kenya. He demanded drastic changes within the commission, including removal of Ezra Chiloba, the CEO of the commission. Odinga believed the commission had colluded with the government to deny him victory.

To make firm his threats, Odinga threatened to withdraw from the election re-run slated for that October if his demands were not met and organized weekly demonstrations to push his agenda The demonstrations were met with brutal force from the police who killed over 33 of the protestors.

Raila Odinga withdraws from October election, Kenyatta wins.

The electoral commission denied his demands and Odinga withdrew from the race and Kenyatta won effortlessly. The Supreme Court upheld his victory this time and he was sworn into office.

Odinga and his supporters declared that they didn’t recognize Kenyatta as president and that Odinga, was the duly legitimate president.

With that declaration, Odinga sought to swear himself in as the president with Kalonzo Musyoka as his deputy. He also formed the National Resistance Movement (NRM), a movement to champion his intended take-over of government.

January 30th, Raila Odinga swears himself in as the “people’s president”.

On Jan. 30, the intended swearing day, Kenyans had blank television screens because the government warned media stations not to cover the swearing in event. That warning was condemned by a section of the media houses who tried to cover the event, but their signals were immediately switched off.

Despite the shutdown, Odinga proceeded to Uhuru Park grounds, where thousands of his supporters had gathered, and took an oath of office to be the “people’s president.” Conspicuously absent was his deputy and other principles in the opposition, which led to wild speculations of division within the opposition.

The Kenyan government has now outlawed Odinga’s NRM.

What will happen next now remains to be seen.

Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer born and raised in Kenya. He is professionally trained as a public health officer but loves writing more. When not writing, he enjoys reading, doing charity work and spending time with friends and family. He is also a crazy pianist!

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