Kenya: Raila Vows to Take Oath As 'People's President'

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga addressing the media in western Kisumu City on December 4, 2017.
18 December 2017

National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga on Sunday vowed he will soon be sworn in as the 'people's president' and scoffed at President Uhuru Kenyatta's warning last week that anyone who undermines the Constitution or peace of the nation will face the full wrath of the law.

While his determination to take the oath will appease millions of his supporters, it is likely to antagonise foreign countries, religious leaders and trade unionists, who want to bridge the rift between the opposition and the government through mediated talks.

Mr Odinga, speaking after he inaugurated the Coast People's Assembly at Sun 'N' Sand Beach Resort in Kilifi County, said his oath of office will happen soon, but neither he nor his party leaders gave a date.

"Nobody will stop me from lifting the Bible," he said, referring to the Christian gesture of lifting the holy book high during oathing ceremonies. "It is better to stand up for the truth and die while at it, than to die lying down."

The Orange Democratic Movement chief executive director Oduor Ongwen had earlier said the timetable for swearing in Mr Odinga at a national gathering was complete.

UHURU'S WARNING

"We will swear him in, whether they like it or not. We will do it at a national gathering where he will take the reins of power immediately," said Mr Ongwen.

Senator James Orengo said: "They say we cannot swear in Raila, but we are telling them we will bring forward the plan to do so soon."

In his speech, Mr Odinga said he will not be intimidated by President Kenyatta's warning, adding that "Kenya is bigger than all of us".

He challenged President Kenyatta to address the issues raised by his supporters, including those who want to secede.

"When governors, MPs and MCAs come together and say they want to secede, that is not a laughing matter. This is serious and shouldn't be dismissed with a mere warning that they have crossed a red line," said Mr Odinga, adding that "the red line can only be drawn by the people of Kenya".

Last week, the President warned that stern action would be taken against anyone threatening the country's peace and stability. In an apparent reference to calls by the opposition for secession and plans to swear in Mr Odinga as 'people's president', the Head of State said those who "cross the line" will not be tolerated.

SWEARING-IN

"We will not entertain any language, any action that threatens our territorial integrity," he told governors and their deputies at Diani Reef Hotel in Kwale.

But, speaking o Sunday during the opposition convention in Kilifi, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi said any attempt to arrest them will "fuel" the opposition's fire.

"You cannot defend territorial integrity but forget the dignity of the human beings within that territory," said Mr Joho. "We will not stop talking until our people get their rights."

Before the meeting yesterday, Mr Odinga had not spoken in public since December 11, when he suspended his swearing-in plans, to the chagrin of some of his supporters.

The opposition is pushing a four-point agenda for national dialogue, which includes strengthening of institutions like the police and the Judiciary, ethnic inclusivity in government, good governance, and devolution.

Reporting by Ibrahim Oruko, Mohamed Ahmed and Silas Apollo

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