Kenya: Face-Off Looms Over Oath As Nasa Vows to Defy Police Warning

Nasa leader Raila Odinga addresses his supporters at the Homa Bay stadium in Homa Bay County on January 27, 2018.
28 January 2018

Police are set for a showdown with the National Super Alliance at Uhuru Park on Tuesday over the planned swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as the 'People's President'.

Nairobi County police boss Japhet Koome was on Sunday categorical that no meeting will take place at the park or within Nairobi's central business district, while the opposition, on the other hand, stuck to its guns, saying the ceremony is "unstoppable and will go on as scheduled".

ODM chairman and minority leader in the National Assembly John Mbadi dismissed the police warning, saying the ceremony will go on and that security agencies have no legal basis to interfere with it.

"The police are being misused by Jubilee and that is why we want a change in leadership.

"It is impunity of the highest order for the police to interfere with us," Mr Mbadi said on the telephone.

ELECTION

The hardline stance by both parties has set the stage for a major confrontation in the city centre.

On Sunday, Deputy President William Ruto also waded into the controversy for the first time since Nasa announced the oath plans, warning that the government does not recognise the event and urging the public to stay away from it.

He urged Kenyans to ignore those engaged in meaningless politics and activities, saying the government will serve all Kenyans equally regardless of how they voted.

"The people have decided who their leaders are. This is now a closed chapter.

"I want to assure you that our goal is to transform the lives of Kenyans through the development agenda we have," he said at the Redeemed Gospel Church in Nairobi's Buruburu neighbourhood, where he attended a service.

POLICE NOTIFICATION

Political leaders who accompanied him urged security agencies to take stern action against anyone involved in the planning and execution of the oath ceremony.

They included Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, his Taita-Taveta counterpart Granton Samboja, MPs Kimani Ichung'wa (Kikuyu), Maina Kamanda (nominated), Charles Njagua (Starehe), Benjamin Mwangi (Embakasi Central), Charles Gakuya (Embakasi North) and Simon Mbugua (Eala).

Mr Koome told a press conference in his Nairobi office that any meeting scheduled to take place on Tuesday at Uhuru Park will be illegal, adding that no one has given police any notification of a political event at the historic grounds.

POLICE CONFRONTATION

The law requires any individual organising a public rally or demonstration to notify the officer commanding a police station by way of filling a prescribed form for purposes of security.

The form contains details of the organiser, the venue and time of the meeting.

Alego Usonga MP Samuel Atandi said Nasa leaders do not fear confrontation with the police and they will go to Uhuru Park whether police like it or not.

"We are not cowards. We confronted the police when our party leader came back from the US and we are ready to do it again on Tuesday," he said.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa said Uhuru Park is a public ground accessible to anyone and the police should not interfere with the freedom of association, assembly and the right to picket.

"Our event is still on at Uhuru Park. We don't have any other place to go and we cannot postpone our national event.

"We urge the police to turn up tomorrow and protect the people that will turn up," he said.

But Mr Koome said his officers will "deal firmly" with anyone intending to breach the law.

"I have only heard it from the press and social media that some people are planning to conduct a ceremony at Uhuru Park.

"There has been no formal communication with us," he said.

POLL BOYCOTT

Mr Odinga claims he won the August 8 presidential election but that his votes were stolen in favour of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But the poll, which Mr Odinga claims he won, was nullified by the Supreme Court over irregularities and illegalities after a petition by Nasa.

A fresh election was held on October 26, which Nasa boycotted.

A president is sworn in by the Judiciary registrar in the presence of the Chief Justice and is only done after election results have been declared by the chairman of the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission.

RENOVATION

Last week, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko said the park had been closed for renovation and that no group will be allowed to access the grounds until the process is complete.

The City Hall boss confirmed that three groups -- Nasa, a church and the Nairobi Business Community -- had booked the venue for various activities on the same day but stated that none of the groups would be allowed in.

Mr Sonko on Sunday urged police not to allow any form of violence in the city, describing Nairobians as 'peace-loving'.

"The people of Nairobi are peace-loving. We know there are some leaders who want to export violence to the city to disturb our unity and destroy our businesses."

Additional reporting by Benson Amadala

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