By Tysan  |  2 February 2018  |  Despite attempts by police to divert buses from all over the country, a massive crowd was present on Tuesday (January 30) in historic Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi when opposition candidate Raila Odinga swore himself in as “the people’s president.” Odinga lost the election in November that installed President Uhuru Kenyatta for a second term, but claims that he won the August election which was set aside by nation’s Supreme Court due to irregularities in the balloting.

Odinga called for a boycott in November because it was conducted by the same election officials, including Ezra Chiloba, the chief executive officer of the election agency, who is an Adventist. The boycott resulted in 98 percent of the second-round vote going to President Kenyatta.

The government cut the transmission of television and radio news in Nairobi during the Odinga swearing-in, but Adventist Today was able to gain access through alternative channels. Last week a letter circulated from Chief Justice David Marga, who is also an Adventist, declaring Odinga’s planned counter-event illegal and prohibiting judges and magistrates from participating. Maraga announced that it was a fake document.

Githu Muigai, the attorney general appointed by President Kenyatta, has repeatedly issued statements that such an event was illegal. He stated that it constituted treason, but the National Super Alliance (NASA) has ignored his opinions. NASA has declared a resistance movement.

Three judges made their way to Uhuru Park despite the crowds and the police and administered the oath of office to Odinga in full regalia at 2:46 pm: Migiuna Miguna, James Orenga and T.J. Kajwang. A number of senators and other members of parliament were also present.

The time set in the Kenyan constitution for the swearing in of a president had elapsed shortly before Odinga arrived. The police had withdrawn from the park. There were deafening cheers raised by his supporters as he gave a brief inaugural speech.

It is unclear what will happen next. No other country has recognized the Odinga government and at this point are interacting as usual with the established government headed by President Kenyatta.

Adventist leaders, along with many civic leaders, including Odinga supporters, have urged civil peace and told church members to stay away from violence.  It is unclear what additional litigation may come before the nation’s Supreme Court and how it might rule.

There are close to one million Adventists in Kenya when children too young to be baptized and adult non-members who report an Adventist identity to the census are included along with the official membership of the two union conferences. It has a population of 50 million and is one of the most prosperous countries in Africa.

Tysan is the correspondent for Adventist Today in East Central Africa.