Johannesburg – As Kenya’s political crisis continues to lurch forward, both Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga of the coalition National Super Alliance (Nasa) party, continue to shadow box, repeatedly throwing jabs and blaming each other for the situation.
The last few months of political turmoil have incorporated annulled elections, an election rerun boycotted by the opposition and challenged in court, bloody and deadly clashes between security forces and protesters, a media crackdown and several inaugurations, one officially by the president and a mock one by the opposition leader.
The stand-off led 11 ambassadors and high commissioners to recently lend support to Kenyatta in a statement in which they urged Odinga to “accept the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were the legitimate President and Deputy of Kenya” after the Supreme Court upheld their election on October 26 last year.
“The opposition needs to accept this as the basis for the dialogue that it, and many Kenyans, want. Stoking and threatening violence are not acceptable, nor are extra-constitutional measures to seize power,” they said, apparently in response to Odinga’s mock inauguration as the “people’s president” in January.
A furious opposition leader responded by telling the envoys to mind their own business and keep out of Kenyan politics, during a rally in Nairobi.
While these mostly Western countries might be tilting favourably towards Kenyatta in their reading of the situation, analyst Simon Allison, a consultant with Pretoria’s Institute of Security Studies (ISS) stated in a recent article that blame could be equally apportioned.
Allison stated that both Kenyatta and Odinga had taken an oath.
During his official inauguration last November the Kenyan president promised to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Republic of Kenya and to preserve, protect and defend the Kenyan constitution.
While Odinga’s mock inauguration in January was dismissed as political theatre by Allison, Kenyatta’s oath was legally binding and provided the standard by which the Kenyan president should be judged.
“The events of the past week suggest that Kenyatta and his administration are falling far short of that standard,” said the ISS consultant.
“Even though Odinga’s ‘inauguration’ was undoubtedly a provocative act that carried grave risk of bloodshed, the government’s heavy response suggests that the president has already forgotten his own inauguration day promises.”
Allison’s criticism of Kenyatta included the government’s media crackdown in the East African country which has traditionally enjoyed a relatively free media by African standards.
“In switching off three independent TV stations because they insisted on broadcasting Odinga’s mock inauguration, the government overstepped its authority.
“It did it again with the attempt to arrest three journalists with Nation Media group – Linus Kaikai, Larry Madowo and Ken Mijungu – who were forced to spend a night in a safe house to avoid detention,” said Allison.
The government has also partially ignored the rulings of the judiciary, including a court demand for the ban on the TV stations to be lifted for 14 days while the case for banning them was heard more fully.
The Kenyan authorities also defied a court order for opposition politician Miguna Miguna to be released after he was arrested for participating in Odinga’s mock inauguration.
“These incidents suggest a certain reluctance on behalf of the executive branch of government to carry out orders of the judiciary – a potentially dangerous breach of Kenya’s separation of powers,” argued Allison.
However, Nairobi has a history of being contemptuous of decisions made by the Supreme Court following the annulment of the first presidential elections in August last year which Kenyatta won.
While Kenyatta’s supporters, and senior officials in his government, have repeatedly described Odinga’s attempt to swear himself in as president, as treason may be correct - in a constitutional democracy, that claim must be tested in a court of law.
“But what has become increasingly obvious is that in cracking down on this alleged treason, Kenyatta and his administration have themselves flouted the rule of law, and violated the president’s promise, made under oath at his inauguration, to uphold the constitution,” said Allison.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right. Whatever the sins of the opposition, the government’s response – which imperils the very foundations of the state – represents an even graver threat to Kenya’s democracy,” he concluded.
African News Agency/ANA