Chaos in Kenya as President Kenyatta sworn in, with police clashing with supporters and opposition groups
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term on Tuesday in what some hoped would be the end of months of election turmoil, which Kenyatta said stretched the country “almost to the breaking point”.
But violence continued, with at least one person killed as police fired rifles and tear gas to break up a large opposition gathering.
During and after Kenyatta’s inauguration, police elsewhere in the capital, Nairobi, tried to stop the opposition from holding demonstrations to mourn dozens killed by police and militia since the original election in August. A witness said one person was shot dead, and opposition leader Raila Odinga was shoved into his vehicle amid clouds of tear gas soon after he called Kenyatta’s presidency illegitimate.
Video showed the crowd fleeing amid the sound of gunfire, then helmeted security forces striking unarmed people with batons. Other people dipped water from slum puddles to clean their eyes.
Kenyatta, speaking to a cheering crowd at a local stadium, said the past few months “have been a trying time”, and he called for an end to hate and divisiveness.
He again criticised the Supreme Court’s nullification of his August election win, saying “despite … being told that the processes matter more than your vote, we complied”.
But he said the court, the justices of which he once called “crooks” for their ruling, acted with independence, and said recent events showed that “our constitution is no piece of paper”.
Institutions should not be destroyed whenever they do not deliver the desired results, he said.
Kenya’s election drama has meant months of uncertainty in East Africa’s economic hub. The court in nullifying the August result cited irregularities after a legal challenge by opposition leader Raila Odinga, and it 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.
Human rights groups have repeatedly accused police of being used by Kenyatta’s government to crush dissent.
Odinga has called Kenyatta’s inauguration a “coronation” instead, and he called Kenyatta a dictator and vowed to pursue fresh elections.
Kenyatta said his inauguration “marks the end, and I repeat the end, of our electoral process”.
He praised the resilience of Kenyans during what he said were the 123 days since the turmoil began.
Several regional heads of state attended the inauguration amid tight security as the country tried to move forward.
In a move to improve continental ties, Kenyatta announced that all Africans will be able to obtain a visa on arrival at a port of entry.
A growing number of African nations are making moves toward easing travel restrictions for people across the continent.
Kenyatta was sworn in using a Bible that had been used to swear in his father, founding President Jomo Kenyatta, at independence in 1963. His rivalry with Odinga, the son of Kenya’s first vice-president, has gone on for years.