Kenyatta sworn in for second term as Kenya’s president amid protests

One person reported killed as police fire rifles and teargas to break up opposition rally

 

Uhuru Kenyatta has been sworn in for a second five-year term as president of Kenya in a colourful ceremony that few believe will signal the end of political instability in the east African country.

Mr Kenyatta (56) won a rerun presidential election last month that was boycotted by the opposition, which said it would not be free and fair.

As the president appeared before the 60,000-strong crowd in Nairobi’s Kasarani stadium for the inauguration, at least one person was reported killed as police fired rifles and teargas to break up opposition supporters gathered a few kilometres away to hear Raila Odinga, the main opposition leader.

Mr Odinga (75) spoke briefly before being forced into a car by volleys of teargas from police. He told the crowd he would be “sworn in as president” by his own supporters later this month and called Mr Kenyatta’s government “illegitimate”.

The political turmoil in east Africa’s richest and most developed economy was triggered when Kenya’s supreme court nullified the first presidential election in August over irregularities. Turnout in the rerun was only 39 per cent. Mr Kenyatta won with a crushing majority.

Supporters wearing the red-and-yellow of the ruling Jubilee party, many carrying Kenyan flags, filled the stadium terraces and cheered wildly as the incumbent president was sworn into office and as he received a 21-gun salute.

Thousands of others waited outside. Some overwhelmed police and streamed in. Officers were forced to fire teargas to control them.

“I … do swear … that I will always truly and diligently serve the people of the Republic of Kenya,” Mr Kenyatta said with his hand on a Bible.

“The elections are now firmly behind us … I will devote my time and energy to build bridges.”

The ceremony was attended by heads of state from across east Africa.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is on a visit to Kenya, pulled out of the ceremony over “security concerns”.

Supporters of Mr Kenyatta said they wanted the opposition to engage in talks and move on.

“I’m sure Uhuru will be able to bring people together and unite them so we can all work for the country,” said Eunice Jerobon, a trader who travelled overnight from the Rift Valley town of Kapsabet for the inauguration.

Ill-feeling

Kenya is now more polarised and divided that at any time since ethnic violence killed more than 1,000 people in 2008, observers say.

The country, a former British colony, is a patchwork of dozens of ethnic groups where political competition for resources often exacerbates existing ill-feeling between communities.

Mr Odinga’s supporters, many drawn from poorer parts of the country, believe they have been marginalised for decades.

They accuse the ruling party of stealing the election, rampant corruption, directing abuse by the security forces and neglecting vast swathes of the country, including Mr Odinga’s heartland in the west.

“A return to the political backwardness of our past is more than unacceptable. It is intolerable. This divide cannot be bridged by dialogue and compromise,” Mr Odinga’s National Super Alliance said in a statement.

However, analysts say the opposition is running low on funds and has lost access to political power through the crisis.

“There is not much the opposition can really do. People get tired of going on the streets and physically putting their lives on the line. It feels as if we have reached something of a full stop,” said Rebekka Rumpel, a Kenya expert at Chatham House in London.

Thoughts are now turning to the next elections, which Mr Kenyatta cannot contest. “The underlying causes have not gone away. The next period will be marked by high-level jockeying for position for 2022,” Ms Rumpel said. – Guardian