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Kenya president sworn in, rival Odinga promises own inauguration

During the ceremony, police fired guns and tear gas as officers tried to stop the opposition from holding peaceful demonstrations to mourn dozens killed by police and militia since August.

world Updated: Nov 28, 2017 18:33 IST
Associated Press, Nairobi
Kenya president,Uhuru Kenyatta,Kenya elections
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta takes oath of office during his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on Tuesday.(AFP)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term on Tuesday in front of tens of thousands who gathered to celebrate what they hoped would be the end of months of election turmoil, which Kenyatta said stretched the country “almost to the breaking point.”

Kenyatta vowed to be the leader of all Kenyans and work to unite the country.

“I will devote my time and energy to build bridges, to unite and bring prosperity,” he said as he started his second term faced with a large portion of the population that rejects his election outright.

During the ceremony, police fired guns and tear gas in other parts of the capital, Nairobi, as officers tried to stop the opposition from holding peaceful demonstrations to mourn dozens killed by police and militia since August. A witness said one person was shot dead.

Kenyatta 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 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.

“On December 12, we will have an assembly that will swear me in,” Odinga told supporters gathered along a road in the Nairobi suburb of Eastlands after police sealed off the location where he had planned to hold a rally earlier in the day.

Minutes after Odinga spoke, riot police teargassed his convoy and charged the crowd.

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.

Odinga has called Kenyatta’s inauguration a “coronation” instead.

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.

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.

First Published: Nov 28, 2017 17:54 IST