Why this year’s Jamuhuri Day fete will be like no other
As Kenyans prepare to celebrate the 54th Jamhuri Day on Tuesday, two events will shape national politics going forward.
The first is whether NRM leader Raila Odinga will be sworn as “president” – and the second is how the State will react to this.
In past years, Jamhuri Day celebrations have been characterised by pageantry, with the President leading the fete in Nairobi. This year promises to be radically different.
The battle lines are already drawn with hardliners within the National Resistance Movement (NRM) having an upper hand than the moderates who had a week ago convinced Mr Odinga to forego the ceremony during a meeting at Maanzoni Lodge in Machakos County.
When Attorney General Githu Muigai called a press conference on Wednesday to warn that taking a presidential oath amounted to high treason, he was echoing what was being whispered within security circles on how to handle the situation.
A security source privy to some of the discussions told Nation that Mr Odinga and several other NRM insiders could be charged with treason “if he goes that route”.
NRM Friday called a press conference at the Okoa Kenya headquarters where they said that there would be an “inauguration of the leadership”.
This was listed as item number five in the movement’s December 12 programme of events. NRM did not, however, indicate where the event will be held and who would be invited.
Some 14 county governments have so far passed Motions on the formation of people’s assemblies. It remains to be seen whether it is the leadership of these assemblies that will be unveiled or whether Mr Odinga will be sworn in as president.
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Executive Officer, Mr Oduor Ong’wen, Friday said arrangements for a constitutive session of the people’s assembly had been completed and that they will install their leadership “that will take the country forward.”
The announcement took place as Mr Odinga and Mr Musalia Mudavadi held a meeting with Mr Nic Hailey, the British High Commissioner and Mr Robert Godec, the US ambassador to Kenya.
Others in the meeting were religious leaders and members of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance.
During the meeting, they “stressed the need to uphold the Constitution” according to a post in Mr Godec’s Twitter handle.
The talks were part of efforts to prevent a confrontation between Mr Odinga’s supporters and the police.
Of late, and ever since he arrived from a US visit on November 17, Mr Odinga has been critical of foreign missions, first for recognising the presidency of Mr Kenyatta and also for their “silence” about the killings of Opposition supporters by the police.
Whether Mr Odinga is feeling isolated by the international community is not clear though in his long political career, he has always called upon the international community to put pressure on the government.
Last week, a top US official for African affairs, Mr Donald Yamamoto, was in Nairobi to meet Mr Odinga. Later, the US embassy released a statement urging Mr Odinga to call off the swearing-in ceremony terming it “extra-constitutional” an issue that has irked Mr Odinga who is accusing Washington and other foreign diplomats in Nairobi of silence in the face of killing of his supporters by the security forces.
“Nobody is talking about it. Yet they have the audacity to come and advise us to forget and move on,” said Mr Odinga.
“We do not recognise the swearing-in (of Uhuru Kenyatta). Our friends can advise us in private …but they should not shout at us about violating of the Constitution… which constitution? My foot!”
But it is the warning by the Attorney General that has been picked up by the international media and which is being watched closely. Prof Muigai said: “The criminal law of the Republic of Kenya stipulates that sort of process is high treason. It is high treason of the persons involved, and any other person facilitating that process.”
Prof Muigai sits in the National Security Council, which is chaired by the President, and has as its members the Deputy President, the Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, the Inspector General of Police and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Service.
Others are the Defence and Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretaries. The National Security Council is the only one mandated by the Constitution to exercise supervisory control over national security and is also supposed to “assess risks to the republic”.
During the last confrontation between Mr Odinga’s supporters and the police, more than 15 people were killed.