Despite earlier actions by Kenyan security and government agencies which appeared to indicate a crackdown to block former presidential candidate Raila Odinga from carrying out a mock self-inauguration, the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta allowed the event to take place.
Thousands of Mr Odinga’s supporters attended the event, despite a government warning that it amounted to treason. Earlier, the authorities shut down three TV stations to prevent live coverage of the event.
In the past the authorities in Kenya have made threats and on occasion gone ahead to make raids on media houses, however, switching off signals is unusual in the country.
Apart from a stain on his legacy caused by the shutdown of the TV stations, it is highly unlikely that President Kenyatta will go ahead to risk plunging East Africa’s biggest economy, into a deeper crisis by arresting his major rival.
It also remains quite unclear what Mr Odinga seems to have gained from the “swearing-in” which analysts say was a flop public relations stunt that in fact was abandoned by other opposition leaders including Mr Odinga’s co-principal and deputy, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka , who skipped his “inauguration”.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term last November, having won an election re-run in October, which was boycotted by Mr Odinga.
Elections were first held in August but the courts ordered a re-run, saying Mr Kenyatta’s victory was marred by irregularities.
At the mock inauguration, Mr Odinga declared that he was answering to a “high[er] calling to assume the office of the people’s president of the Republic of Kenya”. Mr Odinga turned up for just 20 minutes. He signed a statement, swore an oath and left the stage, leaving his supporters wondering why it was such a low-key affair, according to analysts.
Mr Musyoka’s absence suggested there were divisions in Mr Odinga’s National Super Alliance.
Hours after the swearing in Mr Odinga wrote on Twitter: “I wish to thank the people of Kenya for the mandate they have given us and for their steadfast confidence in us. You came from all corners of the republic to witness my inauguration and it was good to see you out in millions….. We have arrived in Canaan; thank you for staying the course with us. Asanteni sana.”
It should be noted that the wording in Mr Odinga’s oath were quite different from that in the oath taken by the president of the Republic, further throwing uncertainty on the motive of his inauguration. “I Raila Amolo Odinga, in full realisation of the high calling, assume the office of the People’s President of the Republic of Kenya,” he said.