Kenya politics: Quick View - Media clampdown follows mock inauguration

Content Type
Country Data and Maps
Institution
Economist Intelligence Unit
Abstract
No abstract is available.
Topic
Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Political stability
Political Geography
Kenya

Event

The mock swearing-in of Raila Odinga, leader of the National Super Alliance (Nasa), as the "peoples' president" at a ceremony in Nairobi on January 30th-in defiance of the government-has increased political tensions and provoked a harsh official clampdown on key television stations.

Analysis

Mr Odinga's "inauguration" (in front of several thousand supporters) took place without serious incident, although it was notable for the absence of the other three top Nasa leaders, especially Kalonzo Musyoka-Mr Odinga's running mate in the 2017 presidential election-who was scheduled to be sworn in as "deputy president". Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wentangula also skipped the event, for reasons that have not been fully explained, although it highlights divisions within Nasa that could grow wider. From one perspective, all three retain hopes of playing future political roles, but this could have been jeopardised by their participation in the mock swearing-in-which the government described as "treasonous". Three leading participants in the ceremony, including two members of parliament, were arrested after the event before being bailed. Mr Odinga, by contrast, has little to lose by open defiance, as he is unlikely to contest the 2022 election. The authorities will also be wary of arresting Mr Odinga, because of the risk of triggering violence.

Mr Odinga can be faulted for his provocative "inauguration" ceremony and his simultaneous disrespect for the Supreme Court, which approved the rerun of the presidential election in October, handing a second term to Uhuru Kenyatta. However, Mr Kenyatta and his administration can also be criticised for their heavy-handed reaction, first by hyping up the mock swearing-in instead of ignoring it or downplaying it, and then by closing down the three most popular television channels just prior to their broadcast of the event, in violation of constitutional rights and at considerable cost to operators. Moreover, the government is defying a court order-handed down on February 1st-ordering the stations to reopen until the case is heard, thereby showing further disregard for the rule of law. Websites have been unaffected by the shut-down, leading to increased social media traffic, but television coverage remains more widespread than the internet.

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