Nairobi — Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose National Super Alliance (NASA) contests the results of October’s re-run election, has defiantly vowed to inaugurate himself the “peoples” president’ at the end of January, if there is no dialogue beforehand with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In an exclusive television interview Tuesday with VOA’s Swahili Service, Odinga denied criticism the threat to hold his own “inauguration ceremony” on January 30 is a tactic to negotiate for power with Kenyatta.
“So, we’re not using the swearing-in as a basis of negotiating with Uhuru Kenyatta. We have said in fact that we don’t want any stake in Uhuru Kenyatta government. We want to be the ones who are in government.”
Despite his tough words, Odinga said the opposition is seeking a dialogue with Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party of Kenya. He said it wants to discuss five points with the Kenyan president – electoral justice, judicial independence, police reforms, devolution of power, and restructuring the executive in the constitution.
“As [for] Jubilee, if they have another item or agenda they want to put on the table, they are free to do so. We are ready to discuss. But, our agenda for swearing-in is not negotiable. We say that if we cannot talk by [the] 30th of … January we are going to be sworn in. And we will then release our program thereafter.”
Kenyatta has hinted at, but not yet agreed to dialogue. Kenya’s Attorney General Githu Muigai warned in December that any attempts to swear in Odinga as president would qualify as high treason, which is punishable by death.
‘Vote of no confidence’
Kenya was plunged into political crisis after last year’s presidential elections, which saw an initial poll voided by the Supreme Court and a second round in October boycotted by Odinga and his supporters.
Kenyatta won the second round with 98 percent of the vote. But, a low voter turnout – 39 percent – led many to question if 56-year-old Kenyatta has the mandate to lead, an uncertainty that 73-year-old Odinga has encouraged.
“So, that election was itself a vote of no confidence in Jubilee,” Odinga said Tuesday. “And, therefore it is even shameful that Uhuru Kenyatta can be claiming that he is the president of Kenya on the basis of the 26th of October elections.”
Kenya’s opposition leader may be defiant, but governance and politics analyst at Interthoughts Consulting Jarvis Bigambo tells VOA he is running out of options. “Because the moment the Supreme Court of Kenya determined and pronounced itself on the issue of the conclusion of elections that were conducted on October 26, that matter sounded a death knell on the issues that the opposition could hop on.”
Bigambo says Odinga has no legal ground to stand on. “And that’s why their claim to that swearing in is that they want to swear in honorable Odinga as the ‘peoples’ president’ not as the bona fide president of the Republic of Kenya,” he said.
But Bigambo warns Odinga, who has no small measure of support in Kenya, should not be dismissed by the ruling party.
“It will also be very dangerous for Jubilee leadership – and here I’m speaking specifically to President Kenyatta – to undermine the political capital that honorable Odinga has. And, it behooves the president therefore to reach out and request the leadership of [Odinga’s party] NASA to be gracious, to be diligent, and to be focused on the progress – democratic progress – of Kenya,” Bigambo said.
The United States recognized the results of the October election, while calling for a national dialogue to address long-standing issues and deep divisions. The U.S. also urged opposition leaders to work within Kenya’s laws to pursue reforms and avoid extra-constitutional actions such as Odinga’s planned “inauguration ceremony.”