Roundup: Kenya weathers political storm as opposition swears in own "president" amid peace

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-31 00:51:04|Editor: yan
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NAIROBI, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Tuesday overcame a much anticipated political storm when the main opposition party, National Super Alliance (NASA) swore in Raila Odinga as the "people's president" in a peaceful and brief ceremony witnessed by thousands of jubilant supporters.

Odinga who took the oath of office as "president" in an event that was skipped by his co-principals reiterated his commitment to fight for greater democratic space, equality, freedom and good governance in Kenya.

His three co-principals clarified in a joint statement that they remained committed to the opposition's quest for electoral reforms and accountable leadership despite their absence from the oath-taking ceremony.

Dressed in African themed attire, Odinga told an ecstatic crowd that his swearing in as "people's president" fulfilled the aspirations of Kenyans yearning for greater freedoms, inclusivity and peaceful co-existence.

He told his supporters that the oath signified the opposition resolve to achieve electoral justice in the country.

Odinga became the first opposition leader to be sworn in as "parallel president" in post-independence Kenya, hence massive anxiety on the outcome of an exercise that was labeled illegal by the government.

It is not clear what the opposition leader will do next since Kenya has President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto.

Earlier on, the government banned live coverage of the oath taking ceremony by several main television stations in the country thus eliciting rebuke from rights campaigners and opposition supporters.

Nevertheless, the privately owned television stations still managed to live stream the event through their digital platforms.

Odinga who celebrated his 73rd birthday early this year managed to placate his ardent followers when he agreed to be sworn in as "people's president" despite resistance from the state.

Contrary to doomsday prediction by seasoned political and security experts, the opposition swearing in of their "own president" failed to produce tragic outcomes like violent confrontation with police.

The ceremony was an anticlimax since there was no bloodshed, looting and street battles that were predicted by pundits.

Experts said Odinga's swearing-in as "people's president" carried heavy symbolic meaning that should not be ignored by both sides of the political divide.

Herman Manyora, a Nairobi-based political analyst said the peaceful oath taking ceremony could herald a new beginning in Kenya's political rejuvenation.

"The fact that the swearing ceremony of opposition chief as the people's president was conducted in a peaceful environment is a confirmation that our democracy has matured hence the need for political players to seize the moment and agree to dialogue for the sake of unity and stability," Manyora said.

He lauded the government for its tactical decision to withdraw security forces from the grounds where the opposition swore in their own "president".

"It was prudent for the police to keep off a largely peaceful ceremony and prevent a dangerous altercation with opposition supporters," said Manyora.

As Kenya moves past anxieties that engulfed the country ahead of opposition swearing of their own "president", international partners urged structured dialogue among political players to promote healing and reconciliation.

The International Crisis Group, a global think tank, said in a statement that Kenyan political leaders should move away from hardline positions and engage in search for a durable solution to polarization that peaked during the last election cycle.

"Time is running short, but both sides should urgently show restraint: Odinga should call off the ceremony; President Kenyatta should agree to an audit of Kenya's electoral authorities. Kenyan leaders also should consider some form of national convention to discuss reforms to lower the stakes of political competition," ICG said.