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May 21, 2018

Kenya opposition to swear-in leader as 'president'

Kenya opposition to swear-in leader as 'president'
'Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga wants to have himself sworn in as an alternative president' - By: AFP/File BRIAN ONGORO

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga is planning to have himself sworn in as an alternative president on Tuesday, seen as a final push to challenge Uhuru Kenyatta's election.

Odinga challenged the result of the original August vote winning an unprecedented annulment, but then boycotted the court-ordered re-run in October handing victory to Kenyatta who won 98 percent of the vote but with a turnout of just 39 percent.

On Tuesday the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) which continues to claim fraud and wants another election to be held, intends to stage its own "swearing-in" ceremony in the capital Nairobi, hoping to pressure the government for talks.

The ceremony -- if it goes ahead -- will put the opposition on a collision course with police and the government, with attorney general Githu Muigai warning in December that any "swearing-in" would be treasonous raising the possibility of Odinga's arrest, a move that would heighten tensions.

Police have said the gathering, to be held at Nairobi's central Uhuru Park, is illegal with city police chief Japheth Koome saying Sunday "the grounds will be a no-go zone".

In recent months opposition rallies and marches have been violently broken up by officers using tear gas and bullets against rock-wielding protesters. A Kenyan rights group estimated that at least 92 people were killed, mostly by police, in election-related violence last year.

Odinga postponed a previous effort to swear himself in last month, but his party insists Tuesday's event will not be delayed.

Since boycotting the re-run poll, citing a lack of reform at the election commission, NASA's strategy has been to challenge Kenyatta's legitimacy by seeking to establish parallel government structures.

Opposition politicians have convened so-called "people's assemblies" in some counties and the inauguration of Odinga as "people's president" is seen as the culmination of this process.

But opposition voters who followed in their millions the boycott call, have shown less enthusiasm for the long drawn-out efforts to continue challenging Kenyatta's victory.

Rallies have rarely attracted more than a few hundred people and have been swiftly broken up by police.

Kenyatta's ruling Jubilee party has dismissed Odinga's swearing-in plan as "noise".

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