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Odinga symbolically sworn in as Kenya’s ‘people’s president’

Kenyan opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition leader Raila Odinga gestures before swearing himself in as the 'people's president' on January 30, 2018 in Nairobi. (AFP photo)

Kenya now has a ‘people’s president’ as the adamant opposition leader Raila Odinga is sworn in during a mock ceremony branded by the government as treason.

The ceremony, staged by Odinga’s followers in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday, was a sign of protest against President Uhuru Kenyatta's new term, which came after months of political wrangling in the East African economic hub.

Tens of thousands gathered in a Nairobi park for the event, which was initially broadcast live on top three TV channels before the transmission was cut by the government. A statement from the Kenya Editors Guild said Kenyatta had threatened to crack down on any media outlets that aired a live coverage of the mock ceremony.

Odinga still claims he won the presidential election last August. He boycotted a re-run of the election in October, which came after Kenya’s Supreme Court overturned the first round over irregularities. Around 100 people have been killed in months of unrest over the election. The opposition insists the death toll is much higher.

The opposition released what it called “authentic” results of the vote last week, saying they showed Odinga had won. The government rejected the results as fake.

Police had warned that it would block Tuesday’s mock swearing-in ceremony, sparking fears of fresh clashes between Odinga supporters and security forces.

To the cheers of his supporters, Odinga, 73, held a Bible over his head to take an oath of office. He said the ceremony was a step toward establishing a functioning democracy in Kenya.

“We are seeing the return of an authoritarian, imperial presidency in our country and rule by fiat, and this must be resisted,” he said.

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