Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has taken an unofficial oath to be “sworn in” as the nation’s people’s president.
Odinga took his oath on Tuesday afternoon, cheered on by thousands of supporters who had gathered in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.
“Today is a historic day for the people of Kenya,” Odinga said in a speech after taking his oath. “The people have gathered here in the hundreds of thousands to say enough is enough with the electoral rigging.
“Today’s step is one step towards the doing away with electoral autocracy and to establishing proper democracy in our country.”
The symbolic “swearing in” ceremony took place three months after he boycotted a presidential election re-run.
Against expectations, Odinga’s deputy Kalonzo Musyoka was missing at the function. Odinga told his supporters that he would be sworn in later, for reasons that would be explained on a later date.
Kenya’s Attorney General, Githu Muigai, had said in December that Odinga’s alternative swearing-in ceremony would amount to treason.
TV networks gagged
Security in the Kenyan capital had been tightened ahead of the self-declared inauguration with authorities shutting down independent TV stations.
Citizen, NTV and KTN TV stations said on Tuesday that authorities took the independent broadcasters off air over plans to cover the ceremony at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.
The channels’ Live YouTube streams were not affected.
On Monday, Linus Kaikai, chairman of the Kenya Editors Guild, said senior editors had been summoned by the authorities and warned not to cover the event or risk being shut down.
Reporting from Nairobi, Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi said that the ceremony had been “anti-climactic” with many leaving disappointed.
“Three other main coalition partners did not show up,” she explained.
Others told Soi that the absence of Musyoka and other coalition partners did not matter.
“Raila Odinga swore on the bible to protect and serve the Kenyan people as a people’s president. A lot of people I talked to say they have pegged their hopes on him. He is the change that Kenya needs,” Soi said.
A symbolic swearing in could be a way of persuading President Uhuru Kenyatta to come to the negotiation table, Soi said.
“By doing this he hopes that it’s going to put more pressure on the president to actually reach out and sit down with the opposition, to listen to their grievances,” she said.
Odinga, 72, refused to take part in an election re-run in October, claiming the government planned to rig the vote.
President Uhuru Kenyatta won a second and final five-year term in office and was sworn in as president in November.
The East African country’s Supreme Court annulled August’s presidential election result saying the electoral commission committed “irregularities and illegalities” during the vote, harming the integrity of the election.
Kenyatta, the son of the country’s founding father, had also won August’s vote.