Even as President Uhuru Kenyatta is sworn into office for his second and final term at the 60,000-seater Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani on Tuesday, Kenyans will be keeping an eye on his political rival Raila Odinga.
The National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader has turned down an invitation to attend the ceremony.
Instead, he has invited his supporters to a parallel event to mourn Kenyans he claims were killed by the police as they participated in a procession to welcome him home after his 10-day tour of the United States and Europe.
Addressing his supporters at Mlolongo on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway on Saturday, Mr Odinga protested the killings and questioned why he should attend President Kenyatta’s swearing-in ceremony in those circumstances.
“We are mourning, and on the other side, Uhuru is preparing a feast, a ceremony,” Mr Odinga said.
“Those who will go to Kasarani are stupid, as all patriotic Kenyans will be at Jacaranda mourning our people brutally killed by this regime.”
A visibly bitter Mr Odinga went on:
“They should have shot me instead; that would have been better. If they did not want me to come, they should have asked me to stay in the US.
“But they knew I was coming, they let me do it, and when excited young people came to welcome me back they shot them dead like thieves.
“What kind of government is that? Uhuru and (Deputy President William) Ruto should be charged at The Hague for these crimes against humanity.”
A seasoned and battle-hardened politician known for his scorched-earth political moves, Mr Odinga is keeping his cards close to his chest, leaving his opponents as well as his supporters guessing.
Addressing Nasa supporters at Upper Hill upon Mr Odinga’s return on November 17, former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama announced that the opposition would hold a parallel swearing-in ceremony for Mr Odinga at Uhuru Park grounds on Tuesday.
Come last Saturday and Mr Odinga flatly rejected the idea of being sworn in, saying it would not only distract Nasa from its push for reforms in the country but also injure his internationally acclaimed status as a statesman and world renowned crusader for democracy and the rule of law.
Mr Odinga, according to sources within Nasa, had been under immense pressure from a faction within the coalition to take the oath of office on the basis that his victory in the August 8 elections was stolen.
Unknown to the proponents of this school of thought, Mr Odinga was opposed to the idea from the outset — a position supported by his close family members and senior members of the coalition, led by co-principal and former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi.
The 72-year-old veteran politician is also said to have little time for an initiative fronted by US Ambassador Robert Godec to bring the two protagonists to the negotiating table.
Mr Godec is said to have sent overtures to both President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s handlers with a proposal on how the current tension in the country, fuelled by a feeling of exclusion mainly from opposition-leaning regions, can be defused and more violent protests averted through national dialogue.
According to a Nasa official, the proposal seeks to discuss amendments to the Constitution to create the position of the leader of the official opposition, who would be charged with national reconciliation.
Asked about his position on the proposed negotiations on Friday night, however, Mr Odinga retorted:
“I can only engage in negotiations that will lead to a fresh election within 90 days.”
That must have left both opponents and supporters guessing his next move.
That Mr Odinga is in this for the long haul was evident in a speech he gave MPs and senators during a Nasa parliamentary group meeting shortly before he left for the US.
During the closed-door meeting, he is said to have warned his troops to brace for tough times as the Jubilee Party was determined to break the opposition.
“Jubilee people will come to my friend Kalonzo (Musyoka) because they know he is undergoing problems, they will offer him some help and then let the whole world know that they have helped him.
“They will approach my friend Mudavadi here with a promise of a job,” Mr Odinga noted while calling on Nasa supporters to remain steadfast and resist Jubilee’s goodies.
Former Vice-President Musyoka was his running mate.
Speaking after attending a brainstorming session at Maanzoni Lodge, Machakos County, on Saturday, Mr Mudavadi maintained — without elaborating — that Nasa will not relent in its quest to ensure that Mr Odinga assumed power in the country through “constitutional means”.
“We recognise Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka as the legitimate President and Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, respectively, and, as a sovereign people, we commit ourselves to see to it that they assume office,” Mr Mudavadi said amid applause.