Nairobi, Kenya : Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta was today,Tuesday, sworn in for a second term in office even as opposition leader Raila Odinga promised his own inauguration. Opposition leader Raila Odinga said at least three people were killed as police fired rifles and tear gas to break up a large opposition parallel gathering.
During and after Kenyatta’s inauguration, police elsewhere in the capital, Nairobi, tried to stop the opposition from holding peaceful demonstrations to mourn dozens killed by police and militia since the original August election. Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who was shoved into his vehicle amid clouds of tear gas shortly after he called Kenyatta’s presidency illegitimate, put the death toll at three.
Kenyatta, speaking to a cheering crowd at a local stadium, said the past few months “have been a trying time,” and he called for an end to hate and divisiveness. He again criticized the Supreme Court’s nullification of his August election win, saying that “despite … being told that the processes matter more than your vote, we complied.”
But he added that the court, whose justices he once called “crooks” for their ruling, acted with independence, and he said the recent events show that “our constitution is no piece of paper.” Institutions should not be destroyed whenever they don’t deliver the desired results, he added.
Kenya’s election drama has meant months of uncertainty in East Africa’s economic hub. The court in nullifying the August result cited irregularities after a legal challenge by opposition leader Raila Odinga, and it ordered a new vote.
It was the first time in Africa that a court had nullified a presidential election, and Kenya’s events have been closely watched cross the continent by opposition parties and leaders alike.
Odinga and his supporters boycotted the repeat election last month, saying electoral reforms had not been made. Many opposition supporters on Tuesday were heeding Odinga’s call to gather and remember those killed in the months of turmoil.
Human rights groups have repeatedly accused police of being used by Kenyatta’s government to crush dissent.
Odinga has called Kenyatta’s inauguration a “coronation” instead, and he called Kenyatta a dictator and vowed to pursue fresh elections.
Kenyatta said his inauguration “marks the end, and I repeat the end, of our electoral process.” He praised the resilience of Kenyans during what he said were the 123 days since the turmoil began.
“To my competitors, and in the spirit of inclusivity, I will endeavour to incorporate some of their ideas,” Kenyatta said. “The election was not a contest between a good dream and a bad dream. It was a contest between two competing visions.” He pledged to build bridges to unite Kenyans.
Several regional heads of state attended the inauguration amid tight security as the country attempted to move forward, even as questions about electoral reforms lingered.
In a move to improve continental ties, Kenyatta announced that all Africans will be able to obtain a visa on arrival at a port of entry. A growing number of African nations are making moves toward easing travel restrictions for people across the continent.
Kenyatta was sworn in using a Bible that had been used to swear in his father, founding President Jomo Kenyatta, at independence in 1963. His rivalry with Odinga, the son of Kenya’s first vice-president, has gone on for years.
EARLIER: World Leaders Congratulate Uhuru Kenyatta After Kenya Supreme Court Upholds Election – Britain became the first government to congratulate Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta after Kenya’s Supreme Court Judges unanimously upheld, on Monday, Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the presidential election rerun held last month. The Supreme Court dismissed two petitions challenging the October 26 repeat election.
“The court has unanimously determined that the petitions are not merited,” chief justice Maraga said. “As a consequence, the presidential election of 26th of October is hereby upheld.”
The court did not detail its reasons. It said it would issue a full judgment within 21 days.
The decision was met with applause in the courtroom from lawyers for the election commission and Kenyatta. The commission said the ruling affirmed its “resolve and deliberate efforts to conduct free, fair and credible elections”.
There was no immediate reaction from Kenyatta.
Opposition candidate Raila Odinga had said the results of the first election were invalid and also challenged the processes of the second vote – eventually pulling out the second race.
Chief Justice David Maraga said all six judges dismissed the two legal challenges to the vote. The opposition coalition NASA insisted the government was illegitimate.
Kenyatta’s main challenger, NASA’s Raila Odinga, said via his adviser Salim Lone that the ruling “did not come as a surprise” and said “it was a decision taken under duress”.
“We in NASA had repeatedly declared before this Supreme Court ruling today that we consider this government to be illegitimate and do not recognise it. This position has not been changed by the court ruling,” the statement said.
It referred to security concerns raised by the opposition about the judges after one of their bodyguards was shot the day before the court was to rule on a request to delay the vote.
The chief justice said at the time police had “enhanced” security after the shooting. The court could not immediately be reached on Monday to comment on NASA’s allegation.
Monday’s ruling clears the way for Kenyatta’s swearing-in on Nov. 28, but it is unlikely to end the worst political situation in East Africa’s most developed economy in a decade. Sporadic clashes erupted in pro-opposition areas after the ruling.
Odinga had called for a “National Resistance Movement” after Kenyatta’s victory last month. Kenyatta had said he would not engage in dialogue with the opposition until “constitutional options” had been exhausted.
The prolonged election process has disrupted the economy and forced the government to cut its growth forecast. Rights groups say at least 66 people have died in bloodshed surrounding the votes in August and October.
The petitioners had argued that the outcome should be voided because the election board did not seek fresh nominations after the Aug. 8 poll was invalidated, and because the vote was not held in each of the 291 constituencies.
The Supreme Court ordered the Oct. 26 election after nullifying the results of the August election, citing irregularities in the tallying of votes – an unprecedented move on the continent.
The opposition boycotted the poll, which Kenyatta won with 98 percent of the vote. Some opposition supporters mobilised to prevent polls from opening in the west of the country.
Britain became the first government to congratulate President Uhuru Kenyatta after his victory was upheld by the Supreme Court Monday morning.
United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson sent his country’s message in a telephone call to Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed.
The Presidential Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU) said that South Sudan, Uganda and Bangladesh also sent their congratulatory messages, as did the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP Group).
PSCU relayed the messages through Twitter.
“Britain congratulates @PresidentKE@Ukenyatta through UK Foreign Secretary @BorisJohnson,’’ the presidential communication team said in the twitter update, adding that Ms Mohammed had confirmed the same.
In their statement, the ACP group described the Supreme Court decision as significant and constituting “a remarkable moment for Kenya”.
“This significant development goes a long way to confirm the country’s democratic maturity as well as the commendable functioning of its democratic institutions,’’ ACP said in a statement sent from Brussels, Belgium.
Further, the group commended Kenyans and their government “for their faith in governing pillars and institutions of democracy and commitment to constitutionalism”.
In their congratulatory message, the ACP states praised President Kenyatta for accepting the court’s annulment of his August 8 victory and for agreeing to participate in the October 26 repeat election.
The group pledged its support to the Jubilee Administration and “it’s effort to move Kenya forward.’’
Kenya, a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamists and a trade gateway to East Africa, has a history of disputed elections. A row over the 2007 poll, which Odinga challenged after being declared loser, was followed by weeks of ethnic bloodshed that killed more than 1,200 people.
Police said on Sunday at least four people were killed overnight in a Nairobi opposition stronghold. [L8N1NP07P]
Odinga accused the government of being behind the killings, which followed at least five deaths on Friday as police tried to disperse opposition supporters. Deputy President William Ruto said action would be taken against those inciting violence.
Odinga put the death toll in violence since he returned to Nairobi on Friday from an overseas trip far higher, at 31. The police tally over the same period was nine.
In several areas of the capital, riots broke out on Sunday in response to the deaths, as residents set cars and buses on fire and police responded with teargas.
Outside the Nairobi court, Kenyatta supporters waved Kenyan flags and danced, and celebrations broke out in the central city of Nyeri, a ruling party stronghold, and other cities.
In the western, pro-opposition city of Migori, protesters said one person was killed in skirmishes with the police after the court ruling. Migori county police commander Joseph Nthenge denied the report.
There were no deaths reported from Kisumu, the largest city in western Kenya and a hotbed of opposition support, although police and protesters also briefly clashed there too.
In the Nairobi slum of Kibera, residents said three people were killed on Monday, including a 67-year-old woman and a young man, but there were conflicting reports of who was responsible for the violence. Police spokesman Charles Owino told Reuters that he had no reports of deaths in the capital on Monday.