The planned swearing in of former Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Amolo Odinga, as the president of the Republic of Kenya would mark a new chapter in the country’s checkered political history. The event penciled for 30th January 2018 is predicted to raise the already high political temperatures to a fever pitch with uncertainties abound on what next phase of this unfolding political fallout from August 2017 elections. The political impasse was further exacerbated when the National Super Alliance (NASA) leadership, the coalition on whose ticket Mr. Odinga contested the disputed 8th August 2017, threw a spanner in the works by holding that he will be sworn in as the country’s president and not as People’s President. His running mate during the botched up 8th August 2017, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka will be sworn in as his vice president.
The planned “inauguration” has drawn the ire of the government and has been roundly criticized by the international community with many foreign diplomats calling for dialogue. However, the NASA leadership was adamant they were moving ahead with their plan as the government led by President Uhuru Kenyatta has rejected any calls for dialogue from the opposition coalition. In response to the opposition coalition’s insistence on the “inauguration”, the government announced the closure of Uhuru Park from access by the general public. The park had been selected as the venue for the planned swearing in. Additionally, the government through the Communications Authority (CA) earlier issued a directive barring media houses from airing live pictures of the event.
30th January: The End or the Beginning?
The morning of 30th January 2018 was marked by an eerily calm in the Nairobi’s city centre and Uhuru Park. Contrary to the expectations of many, Uhuru Park was open to the general public with the police keeping off the historical park in the early morning hours. Members of the opposition streamed into the park to mark an end to the beginning of an event that was defiantly announced several weeks ago after it had been initially postponed.
The CA made good of their threat and shut down Citizen TV and its affiliate, Inooro TV, which were airing live pictures of the event. The CA also shut down all free to air channels of other main media houses including KTN and NTV. Despite initially keeping off Uhuru Park, the police had moved in and cordoned most part of the park with heavy artillery including water cannons. The policemen, fully armed, have also kept a safe distance from the park.