Tuesday, January 30, 2018, in a defying action, Kenya’s main opposition leader Raila Odinga, swore in himself as alternate President in the country. In a brief ceremony before thousand of his supporters, Odinga declared: “I, Raila Odinga, in full realization of the high calling, assume the office of the Peoples President of the Republic of Kenya”.
With a Bible in his hands, symbolizing official taking of oath of office, Odinga said in these words: “I, Raila Omolo Odinga, do swear that I will protect the nation as people’s president, so help me God”. And thousands of his crowd of supporters cheered him on.
Odinga added: “We have accomplished our promise to Kenyans”. The wordings Odinga used as oath taking is said to be different from what is contained in Kenya’s constitution. Could Odinga have strategically chosen those words to undermine the consequences of his action?
Likely to douse political tension and avert needless confrontation, Kenyan police stayed away from the venue of Odinga self-inauguration. The police authority had warned that it would stop Odinga and his supporters from holding the event.
Rather than a ceremonial event publicized by Odinga and his supporters, the event lasted few minutes, in a brisk business-like manner. Odinga and his supporters hurriedly departed the venue of the inauguration without police presence. A senior officer was quoted as saying: “Let them have the park and carry on with their political activities, as long as it is within the law. We are not interested in unnecessary confrontation”.
Government authorities forced three privately owned television stations – NTV, KTN and Citizen TV off air from covering the events. Journalists in Kenya denounced government action against the media. They regarded government action as having no “respect” for the media and as an “unprecedented intimidation of journalists”.
Kenyan government may wish not to risk arresting Odinga and plunge the country into deeper economic and political crisis. Yet, it is unclear what Odinga may be seeking to achieve by declaring himself the Peoples President. For a man who has vowed not to recognize Uhuru Kenyatta’s election as President to lead the country, forming a parallel government, could just be for the purpose of confrontation.
Against higher expectations from Odinga, whose popularity soared after Kenya’s Supreme Court annulled the August 8, 2017, presidential election, which gave Uhuru Kenyatta victory, and ordered a re-run; he pulled out of the re-run order by Supreme Court. There were jubilation across the country, and the international community applauded the Supreme Court judgment. Odinga’s action contrasted him as a purposeful patriot and a democrat.
Odinga declined to take part in the re-run, except major reforms were carried out by government on the country’s election commission. Odinga claimed the re-run election would not be free and fair. He and his supporters boycotted the election. The election re-run went ahead, October 26, 2017, and Kenyatta was declared winner with 98 percent.
Short of any further legitimate claim to the processes that concluded Kenya’s presidential election, Odinga is claiming victory of August 8, 2017presential election, annulled by the Supreme Court. This he said is the basis for which he chose a self-styled inauguration of himself as the Peoples President of Kenya.
The man, Raila Odinga, evokes mixed feeling among the Kenyan people. To his supporters, he is loved and seen as a “democrat”. Others are opposed to him for his unpredictability. Odinga astutely divides opinion in his country.
Is Kenyan government‘s view of Odinga’s action as an opposition president inconsequential, and the wheel of governance in the country can keep moving without further distraction from Odinga? Time will tell.