Pressure is piling on opposition leader Raila Odinga to stop his swearing-in less than 48 hours to the event that coincides with Jamhuri Day.
The Jubilee government, diplomats, religious leaders and some allies of the National Super Alliance leader have intensified their efforts to ensure the Tuesday event expected to unveil the People’s Assembly does not include oath taking.
This came as security agencies held strategy meetings on handling the event after recent criticism over the use of excessive force.
US Ambassador Robert Godec had not formally got back to the opposition as of on Saturday evening after it was reportedly agreed on Friday in a meeting with Nasa leaders that he would reach out to President Uhuru Kenyatta to agree on possible terms of negotiations, an event that would see the planned oath taking called off.
A diplomatic source, who spoke in confidence, however, said the American ambassador spoke to Mr Odinga on the phone on Saturday.
Western envoys and the church favour talks between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga out of concern the route chosen by the opposition was a recipe for chaos. But on Saturday, President Kenyatta said he was not ready for any dialogue on electoral reforms. A Nasa adviser, who spoke in confidence for fear of being labelled a “coward”, said the coalition leadership and affiliates remained divided with some suggesting the swearing-in be stopped when the Opposition makes a “major announcement” on Sunday on the way forward.
“People are angry and Raila (Mr Odinga) must fight for them. However, we must be fair to him and not spill everything he has achieved in terms of legacy by providing him with only the most radical of options in this fight for electoral justice,” said the adviser.
The team organising the process also says it is unsure whether it should proceed with the event in the absence of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Odinga’s running mate in the August polls, who is in Germany attending to his wife who is unwell. It, however, insists details of swearing-in will be as per the people’s assembly resolution.
“The challenge we have is whether to swear in Mr Odinga as planned,” the CEO of Mr Odinga’s party ODM, Mr Oduor Ong’wen, said on Saturday at Wiper offices even as he acknowledged consultations are ongoing. He added: “We don’t know whether he will get time to come home and join our ‘president’ for the event or send a team of judges to Germany for his ‘swearing-in’.”
At the same time, security organs appear determined not to allow an opposition rally on Tuesday in Nairobi as President Kenyatta will be holding Jamhuri Day celebrations at the Kasarani Stadium.
Top security organs that comprise the National Police Service, the National Intelligence Service and administrators in key ministries have, however, endorsed a more “passive approach” if the event is outside the capital.
In past confrontations the police have used live bullets, water cannons and teargas to disperse opposition supporters.
A police source also told the Nation that the city’s county government was also involved in security plans by ensuring venues that can hold big gatherings are not available.
Undercover officers would also be deployed at the venues to monitor activities. There have also been suggestions that Mombasa could be a possible venue for the event, but this has been treated with scepticism by the security sources who spoke to us.
To demonstrate he was readying the security apparatus to deal with any civil disobedience likely to occur on Tuesday, President Kenyatta on Friday hosted all county commissioners at State House, Nairobi.
In other parts of the country, police were instructed to display “minimum force” and only intervene if the crowd turned chaotic to the extent of causing massive destruction.
On Saturday, the Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet declined to comment on the preparations, which have seen thousands of police put on standby even as State House referred us to the Attorney-General Githu Muigai for comment.
Prof Muigai has warned that Mr Odinga would face treason charges punishable by death if he went ahead with plans to be installed as president.
“I reiterate any attempts to swear in any person as president other than the one elected in line with the Constitution and in a manner provided for in the law is unlawful, illegal, null and void ab initio,” Prof Muigai said.
With scanty details on where Mr Odinga would take “the oath of office” and the subsequent announcement by the coalition which also has Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula that at least seven county governments had offered to give venue for the event, the opposition has left people guessing about the venue.
Former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, perceived as one of the hardliners around Mr Odinga, maintained Tuesday’s event was well on course.
“I have come from planning on how to swear in Raila (Mr Odinga). On December 12 we will swear in Raila Odinga and his Deputy Kalonzo Musyoka,” Mr Muthama told mourners at the funeral of master Geoffrey Mutinda, a seven-year-old thought to have been killed by police in Nairobi’s Pipeline Estate.
Mr Muthama did not, however, disclose when Mr Musyoka will fly back for the ceremony and where the event will take place. He said Nasa did not want talks on power-sharing with the Jubilee government.
He said disbanding of the electoral commission headed by Mr Wafula Chebukati and putting in place a commission that can conduct fair elections was on top of their agenda.
Removal from the police service of officers involved in killing of citizens following the disputed elections would be another agenda in the talks, Mr Muthama said.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, an ally of Deputy President William Ruto’s, accused Mr Odinga of planning to cause anarchy.
“Anybody can swear themselves to be anything. The problem however arises when you want to become that which you are not. We know his main intention is to polarise the country and pit communities against each other; it is not about being made president by his people,” he told the Nation.
Senator Murkomen said the Jubilee administration welcomed dialogue that is within the Constitution, sentiments echoed by Mr Kenyatta in the past.
But even as the envoys and the church rooted for dialogue, Mr Kenyatta dashed such hopes when yesterday he said: “Politics is over. We want to take the country forward except that some still think that the political season is not over.”
He was addressing mourners at the burial of Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege’s mother.
Mr Ong’wen, who warned the Jubilee administration would slide into thuggish behaviour if the event is curtailed by the police, however, said that come Monday “we will be having the way forward”.
The team, unveiled by Nasa leadership to find a way to have coalition leader Odinga declared the “people’s president”, said it is being intimidated by the government.
The fear of a government crackdown is the reason the committee has no chairman. Its chief strategist David Ndii was arbitrarily arrested last week in Mombasa and driven all the way to Nairobi before being released on a Sh10,000 cash bail. He was accused of inciting the public to violence.
The organising committee unveiled on Friday last week is expected to come up with a plan to promulgate the people’s assembly on December 12 through motions passed in 15 county assemblies.