NAIROBI – More than two thousand supporters of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga gathered on Tuesday in a Nairobi park where he was due to take the presidential oath in an act of protest against President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term in November after winning a re-run of presidential election which Odinga boycotted, citing doubts it would be free and fair. An election in August, which Kenyatta also won, was later nullified by the Supreme Court over irregularities.
The attorney-general has previously warned that Odinga could face treason charges if the event goes ahead. The punishment for treason is death.
As the crowd gathered, government authorities began to force independent television and radio stations reporting on the gathering off air, several outlets said.
By 0800 GMT, more than 2,000 people were gathered in Uhuru Park, near Nairobi’s main business district. Many were chanting Odinga slogans and waving tree branches.
“Odinga is the one we recognise as the president and that is why we are swearing him in,” said hairdresser Benta Akinyi, 32, standing near other opposition supporters blowing horns and whistles.
Though the police had said they would prohibit any illegal assemblies on Tuesday, there were no uniformed police in the park and no anti-riot officers or vehicles visible.
Nearly 100 people killed in violence over the prolonged election period, mostly in clashes between Odinga supporters and police.
Local radio station Capital FM reported that supporters had been granted permission by Kenyan authorities to use the park. Police and government spokesman were not immediately reachable for comment on that report.
“We intend to hold a peaceful event,” Odinga’s alliance said in a statement late on Monday.
“We nonetheless wish to put the (ruling party) Jubilee administration on notice that we will accomplish our mission come hell or high water. We advise our supporters to come prepared to stay until our mission is accomplished.”
By 0720 GMT, a number of media outlets, including independently-owned Citizen radio and television, and independently-owned NTV and KTN, which had a livestream from the park, had been forced off the air by government authorities, they said.