Kenya’s woes far from over after Kenyatta’s ‘coronation’

The 60 000-seater Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi overflowed on Tuesday with supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta, who was inaugurated again — in controversial circumstances — as president of the Republic of Kenya.

Also present were diplomats, dignitaries and nine heads of state — a relatively poor showing, suggesting a reluctance on the part of Kenyatta’s peers to embrace his second term in office.

On a raised stage, the administration of the oath of office was overseen by Chief Justice David Maraga. One can only imagine the exquisitely awkward small talk between the president and the Kenyan judiciary’s top judge.

It was Maraga, after all, who annulled the presidential election of August 8, citing gross irregularities. And it was Kenyatta who reacted by describing Maraga and the Supreme Court as “wakora” — crooks in Kiswahili — and promised to “fix” the judiciary if he won the election re-run in October.

Kenyatta did win that election, with a stunning majority of 98.1% — thanks to successful opposition calls for a boycott. But although the vote was upheld this time by the Supreme Court, opposition leader Raila Odinga refused to recognise the result.

“It’s a coronation rather than an inauguration. We don’t believe he was legitimately elected as leader of Kenya,” Odinga said.

Elsewhere in Nairobi, running battles between opposition supporters and police resulted in three deaths, according to the opposition, and highlighted just how divided Kenya’s always fragile politics have become.

Kenyatta, in full statesman mode, insisted that his presidency would bridge these divides.

“To my competitors, and in the spirit of inclusivity, I will endeavour to incorporate some of their ideas,” he said. “The election was not a contest between a good dream and a bad dream. It was a contest between two competing visions. I will devote my time and energy to build bridges, to unite and bring prosperity to all Kenyans.”

The president was eager to draw a line under the controversial and violent election period, which has left dozens of people dead.

“The election we have just concluded is probably one of the longest ever held in our continent’s history. Today is the 123rd day since we began, on August 8.

“Today’s inauguration, therefore, marks the end of our electoral process. The elections are now firmly behind us.”

The opposition, however, has other ideas.

The National Super Alliance has called for a nationwide boycott of businesses allegedly linked to Kenyatta — including leading mobile operator Safaricom and Kenyatta’s own Brookside Dairy business — and Odinga has promised to hold his own inauguration on December 12, where he will be sworn in as “the people’s president”.

Kenya’s elections may have officially concluded, but its political crisis is far from over yet.

Simon Allison
Simon Allison
Africa Editor for @MailandGuardian. Also @ISSAfrica.
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