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Kenyan Government Warns of Arrests Over Odinga's ‘Inauguration’


Kenya's Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i speaks during a press conference in Nairobi, Jan. 31, 2018.

Kenya’s interior minister warns that arrests may be in store in relation to opposition leader Raila Odinga’s self-inauguration ceremony Tuesday as “the people's president.” Meanwhile, authorities say local media stations prevented from broadcasting Tuesday’s event live will remain off the air pending the results of an investigation.

Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i said Raila Odinga’s inauguration was, in his words, “a well-choreographed attempt to subvert or overthrow” the government.

“We've commenced wide-scale investigations targeting individuals and organizations who include but may not be limited to certain media houses,” Matiang’i said. “We will act decisively but strictly according to the law.”

One arrest reported

On Tuesday, before thousands of supporters gathered at a Nairobi public park, Odinga took a symbolic oath of office as the so-called “people's president,” an act the government has termed illegal and potentially amounting to treason.

Following the interior minister’s press conference Wednesday, local media were already reporting at least one arrest — a lawyer and opposition lawmaker who stood prominently on stage with Odinga on Tuesday, administering the oath.

Legal analysts tell VOA it may be difficult for authorities to arrest Odinga, because in the ceremony he did not claim the title of “President of the Republic of Kenya.” His Twitter account currently identifies him as simply “His Excellency.”

Tuesday's oath discounted

James Mwamu, a Kenyan lawyer and former chairman of the East Africa Law Society, says Tuesday’s oath by the opposition National Super Alliance, or NASA, carried no legal weight.

“Going on forward, however, I think what NASA is intending to do is perhaps legitimize this by passing people's assemblies,” Mwamu said. “So at the end of the day, when people’s assemblies would resolve that this is the way they want to go, then at that particular point it will obtain some legal meaning, but for now we can safely say regarding legal interpretation, there is absolutely no effect about the swearing.”

NASA is Odinga’s opposition coalition. After an October rerun of the August presidential election, Odinga then created the National Resistance Movement, or NRM.

Kenyan authorities accused the NRM of planning to incite large-scale violence.

The interior minister cited that accusation as the ground upon which the government cut transmission Tuesday for four local TV and radio outlets that had planned to broadcast Odinga’s swearing-in live.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers a speech during a ceremony at the All Saints Anglican Church in Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 5, 2017.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers a speech during a ceremony at the All Saints Anglican Church in Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 5, 2017.

Deputy ​opposition leader attacked

Odinga boycotted the rerun of the presidential election and has refused to accept President Uhuru Kenyatta's victory, which was certified by the Kenyan Supreme Court.

In a sign of the continued political tensions, unidentified gunmen attacked the home of deputy opposition leader Kalonzo Muyoka with a grenade Tuesday night.

Police spokesman Charles Owino says an investigation has been opened.

“Fortunately, the hand grenade that exploded is a stun hand grenade. So a stun hand grenade is a grenade that gives you a very loud bang,” Owino said. “It’s meant to scare. It’s not meant to harm or to kill.”

More than three months after the controversial presidential election rerun, Kenya's political scene certainly shows no sign of cooling down.

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