January 30, 2018
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s government cut transmission of three TV channels airing live broadcasts of the “inaguration” of opposition leader Raila Odinga as alternative president Tuesday in front of thousands, after months of deadly election turmoil.
The attorney general has warned that such a protest act challenging the official president amounts to treason. The Kenya Editor’s Guild said in a statement Monday that President Uhuru Kenyatta “expressly threatened to shut down and revoke the licenses of any media house” that aired live broadcasts of the opposition’s event.
A huge crowd of Odinga’s supporters gathered Tuesday at Nairobi’s main park to attend the event. Police were withdrawn without explanation at Uhuru Park. A heavy police presence remains in the capital city’s slums, which are opposition strongholds.
Former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who is Odinga’s deputy, said his police security had been withdrawn ahead of the protest event. The U.S. has advised Odinga against the so-called inauguration, as Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub, tries to move beyond months of deadly election turmoil. Police had vowed to block opposition supporters from attending the event leading to fears of more civilian deaths. Dozens of Kenyans have died in anti-government protests in recent months.
Rights advocates accuse Kenyatta of veering toward dictatorship and accuse his administration of continuously violating Kenya’s constitutionally guaranteed freedoms including those of assembly and expression.
Odinga claims he won the presidential election despite the electoral commission’s official declaration that Kenyatta was the victor. The Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta’s August win after Odinga challenged it, claiming that hackers infiltrated the electoral commission’s computer system and changed results in favor of Kenyatta.
In the ruling, the first time a court had overturned a presidential election in Africa, the court cited irregularities and illegalities. It also said it ruled against Kenyatta because the commission refused to open its computer system for court scrutiny to dispel Odinga’s claims.
The court ruled the results from the August election were “null and void” and ordered a fresh vote in October which Kenyatta won after Odinga boycotted, citing a lack of electoral reforms. On Friday, Kenya’s opposition released what it called “authentic” election results showing Odinga won the August vote, but it refused to say how it obtained the information from the electoral commission’s computer servers.
Kenya’s electoral commission has called those results “fake.” Between the two elections the government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has said at least 92 people were killed and dozens of others were sexually assaulted. Most were opposition supporters who went on the streets to protest Kenyatta’s re-election.