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Raila’s swearing in as ‘people’s president’ was not treasonable, Murathe says

Jubilee Party Vice Chairperson David Murathe has sensationally claimed that the mock swearing in of ODM leader Raila Odinga in 2018 as the ‘people’s president’ was not treasonable.

It is for this reason, Mr Murathe says, that President Uhuru Kenyatta allowed the event of January 30, 2018 to take place at Uhuru Park.

“The President ordered that all police officers be withdrawn from Uhuru Park so that the activity could go on.”

He said the President’s reasoning was, “What is the big deal? After all, we have a properly constituted and sworn-in government… let him be sworn in and walk home to his wife. He was not going to march into State House.”

Mr Odinga, ‘inaugurated’ himself in the presence of thousands of supporters in Uhuru Park, Nairobi ignoring a government warning that the ceremony amounted to treason.

“I Raila Amolo Odinga, in full realisation of the high calling, assume the office of the People’s President of the Republic of Kenya,” he said in an oath administered by Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang’ and lawyer Miguna Miguna.

The then, National Super Alliance (Nasa) principals including Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula skipped the event that took less than 10 minutes.

“We have accomplished our promise to Kenyans,” Mr Odinga said at the end of the event before leaving hurriedly.

Immediately after taking the oath, Mr Odinga’s official Twitter account was updated to read: “This is the official account of His Excellency Raila Amolo Odinga, President of the Republic of Kenya.”

But while speaking on NTV, Mr Murathe gave credit to Mr Odinga, saying the swearing-in “was cleverly worded to avoid the treason bit.”

The ceremony followed hours of uncertainty as supporters waited in the baking sun and commentators speculated over whether Mr Odinga would actually go through with the “inauguration” that was already delayed in December.

It also came as outrage hit the media after the government allegedly warned broadcasters not to cover the event, and pulled major television network Citizen TV off the air mid-morning, while also blocking transmitters of NTV.

After the mock inauguration, the then Attorney-General Githu Muigai warned that the ODM leader could be charged with treason, an offence which is punishable by death.

“The swearing in of any person not lawfully declared to have won an election by the independent election and boundaries commission, and the swearing in that is not conducted by the chief justice of the Republic of Kenya is a process wholly unanticipated by the constitution and is null and void and illegal. The criminal law of the Republic of Kenya, in Article 40 of the penal code provides or stipulates that that sort of process, is high treason,” Mr Muigai said.

But the authorities failed to make good their threats to arrest Mr Odinga and charge him with treason.

Instead, Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang’ was arrested and charged with taking part in unlawful assembly. Dr Miguna was also arrested and forced into exile in Canada on allegations that he is not a Kenyan citizen.

About a month after the swearing in ceremony, things took a completely different turn after President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga met and shook hands in public in the famous handshake of March 9, 2018 in which they vowed to put their political differences aside.

The Handshake was followed by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which the Supreme Court blocked the government-backed plan to make fundamental changes to the constitution.

While Dr Miguna remains exiled in Canada, the charges against Mr Kajwang’ have since been dropped. In November 2019, while acquitting Mr Kajwang’, the courts ruled that Mr Odinga’s swearing-in was not illegal.