Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga has attempted to swear himself in as president during an alternative ceremony, prompting accusations of treason and sparking a ban on TV and radio.
An estimated crowd of 15,000 gathered in a central Nairobi park on Tuesday to cheer Mr Odinga as he took a symbolic presidential oath.
“I, Raila Omolo Odinga, do swear that I will protect the nation as people’s president, so help me god,” he said solemnly.
The 73-year-old’s mock inauguration came despite him losing a bid for the presidency in August last year, when Uhuru Kenyatta won an election that his opponent claims was plagued by fraud.
Kenya’s supreme court ordered a re-run last October, but Mr Odinga boycotted the new poll, citing corruption and bias within the country’s electoral authority.
In a short speech, lasting less than five minutes, Mr Odinga denounced “election stealing” and the country’s “electoral autocracy”, but he said little of his future plans.
In a possible sign of division within the opposition alliance, Mr Odinga’s vice presidential candidate and a number of other senior leaders were absent from the ceremony.
As people assembled at Uhuru Park for the attempted inauguration, state officials forced independent TV and radio stations off the air.
Police officers and personnel from Kenya’s communications authority disconnected equipment as broadcasters Citizen TV, KTN and NTV filmed people sitting peacefully on the grass.
However, the stations continued to stream the footage online.
Officials at Kenya’s interior ministry suggested the TV ban was designed to maintain order, but veteran journalists accused President Kenyatta’s administration of trying to cripple the media and shackle free speech.
Kenya’s attorney general, Githu Muigai, warned last month that any “swearing in” of Mr Odinga would be treasonous.
It raised the possibility of the opposition politician’s arrest – a move that could seriously heighten tensions within the country.