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Kenya Declares Opposition 'Criminal Group' After Symbolic Swearing-In Gathering

Kenyan opposition party National Super Alliance (NASA) leader, Raila Odinga holds a bible during a rally in Homa Bay on the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya, on Saturday.
Brian Ongoro
/
AFP/Getty Images
Kenyan opposition party National Super Alliance (NASA) leader, Raila Odinga holds a bible during a rally in Homa Bay on the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya, on Saturday.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

Police in Kenya fired teargas on Tuesday, in an effort to break up what authorities called an illegal mass gathering of opposition supporters who staged a swearing-in of their leader as the country's president.

The government subsequently declared the resistance movement "an organized criminal group." The declaration cited Kenya's Prevention of Organized Crimes Act of 2010.

Despite official threats, Raila Odinga took the oath in front of thousands of his supporters who had assembled at a downtown park in the capital, Nairobi. But while some had expected the rally to turn into a protest march, Odinga instead sent people home from the symbolic ceremony.

NPR's Eyder Peralta, reporting from Nairobi, says the government had declared that if Odinga took the oath of office, it would be treason and punishable by death. Eyder says three of the country's main broadcasters were shut down in an apparent attempt to impose a blanket ban on coverage of the event.

Kenyan newspaper The Star reports: "Supporters of the [Odinga's] National Super Alliance started arriving at about 6am, some having walked all the way from places such as Huruma and Kibera slums, which are Opposition strongholds."

Last fall, Kenya's Supreme Court declared Odinga's rival, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, the victor in the Oct. 25 poll. That election was a re-do of an August vote that was annulled by the high court – a decision that seemed to affirm Odinga's charges that his opponent had used extra-constitutional means to secure a win.

But Odinga boycotted the October poll, charging that the vote would be rigged by Kenyatta, who was sworn-in for a second term in November.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.