Kenya president sworn-in as police block
rival opposition meeting
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[November 28, 2017]
By Duncan Miriri and George Obulutsa
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan President Uhuru
Kenyatta was sworn-in for a second five-year term in front of a
rapturous crowd on Tuesday as riot police sealed off an area where the
opposition planned a rival gathering and teargassed people trying to
Kenyatta won a repeat presidential election on Oct. 26 that was
boycotted by opposition leader Raila Odinga, who said it would not be
free and fair.
The Supreme Court nullified the first presidential election, in August,
The extended election season has divided Kenya, a Western ally in a
volatile region, and blunted growth in East Africa's richest economy.
Odinga's supporters, many drawn from poorer parts of the country, feel
locked out of power and the patronage it brings.
Political arguments often have ethnic undercurrents, with Odinga's
supporters pointing out that three of the country's four presidents have
come from one ethnic group, although the country has 44 recognized
But such arguments seemed far from the happy crowds at the celebration,
who cheered wildly as Kenyatta was sworn into office and as he received
a 21-gun salute.
"I ... do swear ... that I will always truly and diligently serve the
people of the Republic of Kenya," Kenyatta said, his hand resting on a
Before he arrived, a military band in gold and blue uniforms serenaded
heads of state from Somalia, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia,
Djibouti, Zambia and other nations as they arrived at the stadium where
the ceremony took place.
More than 60,000 Kenyatta supporters, many clad in the red and yellow
Jubilee party colors and carrying Kenyan flags, filled the stadium
Thousands of others waited outside. Some, chafing at the restrictions,
overwhelmed police and streamed in. Officers were forced to fire teargas
to control them.
Supporters of Kenyatta - who won with 98 percent of the vote after
Odinga's boycott - was the opposition to engage in talks and move on.
"Iím sure Uhuru will be able to bring people together and unite them so
we can all work for the country," said Eunice Jerobon, a trader who
traveled overnight from the Rift Valley town of Kapsabet for the
inauguration, before the disturbance.
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Policemen walk ahead of the inauguration ceremony to swear in
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi,
Kenya November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
But Odinga supporters say such talk of unity is tantamount to
surrender. They accuse the ruling party of stealing the election,
rampant corruption, directing abuse by the security forces and
neglecting vast swathes of the country, including Odinga's heartland
in the west.
"A return to the political backwardness of our past is more than
unacceptable. It is intolerable ... This divide cannot be bridged by
dialogue and compromise," Odinga's National Super Alliance
opposition alliance said in a statement.
The opposition planned to hold a prayer meeting in the capital on
Tuesday, saying it wanted to commemorate the lives of Odinga
supporters killed during confrontations with the security forces
over the election period.
More than 70 people have been killed in political violence this
election season, mostly by the police. Such killings are rarely
A Reuters team at the scene of the planned rally said the area had
been sealed off by seven truck loads of police in riot gear. Two
water cannons were standing by and a helicopter hovered overhead.
Police began firing teargas in nearby residential areas two hours
before the rally was due to start, apparently attempting to prevent
opposition supporters from gathering.
Several roads were blocked by burning tyres, rocks, glass and
uprooted billboards. Police shot in the air to disperse anyone
trying to gather.
But Dennis Onyango, a spokesman for Odinga, told Reuters on Tuesday
morning they were still planning to hold the rally.
(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld; writing by Katharine
Houreld; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Robert Birsel, William Maclean)
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