Fears of chaos in Kenya as Raila Odinga set to be sworn in as “People’s President”

A special report from News Growl's East African correspondent

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Raila Amolo Odinga
Photo: Eric Miller

Five months after the Kenyan Supreme Court nullified the results of the 2017 General Election, the Right Honourable Raila Amollo Adinga, a former minister and presidential candidate from that race, is set to be sworn in as the “People’s President” on January 30th.

Raila and NASA shoot for the moon

Two days from now the National Super Alliance coalition (NASA) is insisting that their leader Raila, known to his supporters as “Baba” will be sworn in as Kenya’s legitimate “People’s President” – an office with no history or constitutional legitimacy whatsoever.

The crisis follows a set of shambolic elections that were held in Kenya on August 8, 2016. The disputed poll was rendered null and void by the Chief Justice David Maraga and five other judges on the supreme court in a 4-2 split decision. An unprecedented event in African political history, the judges decided to overturn the elections largely because of the many irregularities involving the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Raila accused the IEBC of hacking the election computers, and of flouting the law and the constitution to the extent that they had become a law unto themselves.

A new election was ordered to take place within 60 days, but NASA then refused to take part after the IEBC failed to meet their minimum demands. Incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta and who had been declared the winner of the first set of elections by the IEBC, ran unopposed. But his legitimacy has been tainted by winning without many parts of Kenya taking part in the exercise. Kenyatta was sworn in for his second term as president, but much of the country fails to accept him as their real president.

People power, or treason?

As dissatisfaction grew, the idea of swearing in Raila Odinga as the “People’s President” was born. This was helped by calls for dialogue between Raila and the president Uhuru Kenyatta being met with silence. With few other options for pressing their case, NASA luminaries now insist that their leader will be sworn in as the legitimate president on in two days time.

If the event goes ahead it will be the first time since 1982 a Kenyan who was not legally elected has declared himself president. On that occasion the erstwhile head of state, Hezekiah Ochuka, was soon after convicted of treason and executed.

According to sources close to the organizing team, Preparations are underway for the event itself and for what will happen after Baba takes the oath. NASA claim to have scheduled a series of elaborate events at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, culminating the oath taking ceremony that NASA insiders hope will be the final affront to the legitimacy of president Uhuru Kenyatta.

Speaking to Kenya’s The Standard newspaper, Raila played down his own importance saying, “There are so many of our supporters who have died. if Kenyans are not brave enough to fight for their rights, they will continue suffering. The lives of those who have died are not any important than that of Raila Odinga.

“If it is a matter of life imprisonment or death so that we get our rights, we are ready. On Tuesday, Raila will be in Uhuru Park and he will be sworn in as President.”

Kenyans who want to attend have been left guessing whether the ceremony will take place at Uhuru Park, as Raila and NASA say it will, or at an alternative venue. In a case of suspicious timing, the park was closed this week for renovation by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. Furthermore, the assembly ground has been leased to two groups for use on the same day, including the Nairobi Business Community.

The clock is ticking and the fear of what happens after Mr. Odinga is sworn is creeping in slowly. The fears of chaos erupting after the oath are heard in many places. The opposition has maintained that it will be on Tuesday or never. The dice has been rolled and Kenyans are waiting for the big day. The day that many in the opposition fraction will change Kenya forever.

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