Kenya's president sworn in amid disrupted opposition demonstrations

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 28.11.2017 14:21
Updated 28.11.2017 17:47
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, center, is sworn-in accompanied by his wife Margaret, center-right, during his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 28, 2017. (AP Photo)
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, center, is sworn-in accompanied by his wife Margaret, center-right, during his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 28, 2017. (AP Photo)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn into office for a second term in front of tens of thousands who gathered Tuesday in the country's largest stadium to celebrate what they hoped would be the end of months of election turmoil.

Kenyatta vowed to be the leader of all Kenyans and work to unite the country after a bruising and drawn out election process that ended with his swearing-in.

"I will devote my time and energy to build bridges, to unite and bring prosperity," he said, a promise that analysts say is likely to ring hollow for the opposition, which rejects his election outright.

Kenyans filled the 60,000-capacity Kasarani stadium in capital Nairobi, with organizers saying an extra 40,000 had flocked to witness the ceremony to inaugurate Kenyatta.

Many were decked in outfits of black, red and green to mirror the national flag while others wore traditional clothing.

The ceremony, led by Chief Justice David Maraga, was also witnessed by the heads of Uganda, Djibouti, Rwanda, Botswana, South Sudan, Gabon, Somalia, Zambia, Ethiopia and Israel.

Prime ministers, foreign ministers and special envoys represented other African nations, as well as Qatar, Serbia, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.

But during the ceremony, police fired guns and tear gas in other parts of the capital, Nairobi, as officers attempted to stop the opposition from holding peaceful demonstrations in memory of dozens killed by police and militia during weeks of election protests. A witness said one person was shot dead.

Police patrolled the Jacaranda grounds where the leading opposition group, the National Super Alliance (NASA), had urged supporters to gather to remember those killed in post-election protests since August.

But NASA later said in a statement that the roads out of several Nairobi slums where they have a large support base had been blocked by water cannon and armored vehicles.

"Government lorries pouring rubbish at the Jacaranda Grounds where NASA is to hold its memorial service. All entryways into the Grounds sealed by water cannon trucks. Policemen beating our youth who have started heading to the grounds," NASA said.

The opposition also said several of it's lawmakers were "missing" and another was under "house arrest."

Kenya's election drama meant months of uncertainty in East Africa's economic hub. The Supreme Court nullified the August election results, citing irregularities, after a legal challenge by opposition leader Raila Odinga and ordered a new vote.

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.

Several regional heads of state attended Kenyatta's inauguration amid tight security as the country attempted to move forward, even as questions about electoral reforms lingered.

Kenyatta was sworn in using a Bible that had been used to swear in his father, founding President Jomo Kenyatta, at independence in 1963.

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