Saturday 24 August 2019

Kenyan opposition supporters killed in clashes as Kenyatta sworn in as president

Uhuru Kenyatta is sworn in during his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi (AP)
Uhuru Kenyatta is sworn in during his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi (AP)
Supporters attend the presidential inauguration at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi (Ben Curtis/AP)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has been sworn in for a second term in what some hoped would be the end of months of election turmoil, b ut violence continued with at least three people killed as police opened fire at a large opposition gathering.

During and after Mr Kenyatta's inauguration in Nairobi, officers elsewhere in the capital tried to stop the opposition from holding peaceful demonstrations to mourn dozens killed by police and militia since the original August election.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who was shoved into his vehicle amid clouds of tear gas shortly after he called Mr Kenyatta's presidency illegitimate, put the death toll at three.

Associated Press video showed a crowd fleeing amid the sound of gunfire, and helmeted security forces striking unarmed people with batons.

A witness, Isaac Mekenye, said a seven-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet as police chased opposition supporters in the low-income area of Pipeline.

The president, speaking to a cheering crowd at a city stadium, earlier said the past few months had been "a trying time" which had stretched the country "almost to the breaking point".

He called for an end to hate and division, and again criticised the Supreme Court's nullification of his August election win, saying: "Despite ... being told that the processes matter more than your vote, we complied."

He added that the court, whose justices he once called "crooks" for their ruling, acted with independence, and recent events show "our constitution is no piece of paper".

Institutions should not be destroyed whenever they do not deliver the desired results, he added.

Kenya's election drama has meant months of uncertainty in east Africa's economic hub. The court in nullifying the August result cited irregularities after a legal challenge by Mr Odinga, and ordered a new vote.

It was the first time an African court had nullified a presidential election, and Kenya's events have been closely watched cross the continent by opposition parties and leaders.

Mr Odinga and his supporters boycotted the repeat election last month, saying electoral reforms had not been made. Many opposition supporters on Tuesday heeded his call to gather and remember those killed in the months of turmoil.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused police of being used by Mr Kenyatta's government to crush dissent.

Mr Odinga dubbed the inauguration a "coronation" and called Mr Kenyatta a dictator while vowing to pursue fresh elections.

Mr Kenyatta said his inauguration "marks the end, and I repeat the end, of our electoral process". He praised the resilience of Kenyans during what he said were the 123 days since the turmoil began.

Several regional heads of state attended the inauguration amid tight security as the country attempted to move forward, even as questions about electoral reforms lingered.

In a move to improve continental ties, Mr Kenyatta announced that all Africans will be able to obtain a visa on arrival at a port of entry. A growing number of African nations are making moves towards easing travel restrictions for people across the continent.

Mr Kenyatta was sworn in with a Bible that was used to swear in his father, founding President Jomo Kenyatta, at independence in 1963.


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