The crack down on allies of Nasa leader Raila Odinga who aided him in his ‘swearing-in’ ceremony on Tuesday has put Kenya on the international spotlight.
The US, the EU and the AU all spoke out on Friday, calling for a return to law and order.
They spoke after lawyer Miguna Miguna, an ally-turned-critic-turned-ally of Mr Odinga, was arrested when police broke into his home in Runda estate, Nairobi, at the crack of dawn.
His arrest could be a signal that others who played a key role in the ceremony, including Senator James Orengo and businessman Jimmy Wanjigi, are also likely to be targeted after MP Tom Kajwang and Mr Miguna.
Mr Kajwang was freed on bond on Wednesday while Mr Miguna also got a Sh50,000 bond on Friday.
And as Kenya entered the fourth day of intense political brinkmanship, the international community weighed in with a warning against unconstitutional activities from the government and opposition.
The US, in a strongly-worded statement, warned that Kenya is sliding towards unconstitutionalism.
“We reject actions that undermine Kenya’s Constitution and the rule of law,” Ms Heather Nauert, the US State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.
She said the US was “gravely concerned” by what she described as Mr Odinga’s self-‘inauguration’.
TV STATIONS SHUTDOWN
They unequivocally affirmed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, noting that outcome of the October 26 repeat election was upheld by Kenya’s Supreme Court.
Mr Odinga boycotted that election.
“We are also deeply concerned by the government’s action to shutdown, intimidate and restrict the media,” Ms Nauert said, adding the US voice to the growing criticism of the government’s crack down against three privately owned and independent television stations and one radio station.
“Freedom of expression, including for members of the media, is essential to democracy and is enshrined in Kenya’s Constitution.
“We urge the government and all Kenyans to respect freedom of expression and implement court orders calling for the restoration of television broadcasts.”
The statement asked all Kenyan leaders and citizens to begin a national conversation to build cohesion and address long-standing issues.
“The United States continues to support efforts by religious, business, and civil society leaders to begin this conversation in the near future and calls on everyone to participate,” it said.
The African Union and the European Union also asked political players to respect the law and the Constitution and choose dialogue.
The AU Commission Chairperson, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, said the AU was “concerned” with Mr Odinga’s ‘swearing-in’, arguing that it violated the outcome of an election already endorsed by a constitutional court and by its own observers.
“Against this backdrop, and in line with its relevant instruments, notably the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the African Union rejects all actions that undermine constitutional order and the rule of law,” the AU said in a statement, but then added that all sides will have to respect the provisions of the law.
“The chairperson urges all concerned to desist from any such actions, which also put the political stability of Kenya at risk.”
RULE OF LAW
On Thursday, the European Union urged all political players to respect the outcome of the elections but called for the respect for freedoms of the media and speech.
The EU, one of the indirect donors to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission programmes, through the UNDP, said it supports respect for the Constitution, which “includes recognising the outcome of the elections and the re-election of President Kenyatta”.
It also called for the respect of freedoms of assembly, media and speech and lifting any ban on media operating within the law.
The EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Catherine Ray, said the body sees Kenya’s election season as over although the problems arising from the election period will have to be addressed.
“All actors should contribute to calm. The Kenyan people now have the opportunity to take the country forward and work together on their historical path towards democracy and development,” she said.
The calls for a return to the constitutional order come just days after Mr Odinga defied threats of being slapped with a treason charge — which carries the death penalty upon conviction — to take an ‘oath’ as the ‘people’s president’ on Tuesday.
Mr Miguna stamped the ‘oath’ in his capacity as a lawyer and commissioner for oaths.
Mr Kajwang’ was also present when Mr Odinga took the ‘oath’.
However, three of Mr Odinga’s closest allies and co-principals, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Senator Moses Wetang’ula, boycotted the ceremony.
Mr Musyoka was to be ‘sworn-in’ as the ‘deputy people’s president’.
All three have since promised to give a comprehensive statement on why they stayed away, only saying so far that what happened to them that day was “incomprehensible”.
Since Mr Odinga took the ‘oath’, the government has arrested those who administered it while also targeting television stations for airing the proceedings of the day.
However, the stations were switched off before they could televise the event.
The government has also defied an order by the High Court ordering it to re-open the three stations: NTV, Citizen and KTN.
On Friday, NTV journalists Linus Kaikai, Larry Madowo, and Ken Mijungu obtained anticipatory bail to evade arrest after spending Wednesday night in the newsroom after getting wind that police were waiting outside Nation Centre to arrest them.
The US has said that “any arrests and prosecutions must be made in full accordance with the rule of law and demonstrate transparent due process”.
Besides targeting the media, the government has also revoked gun licences for Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi, and Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati.
However, Mr Arati on Friday got a court order reinstating his gun licence.
Others affected by the crack down are Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka, whose security has been withdrawn.
The National Resistance Movement, which is a part of the Nasa coalition, was also proscribed in a Gazette notice signed by the Cabinet Secretary for the Interior, Dr Fred Matiang’i.
Today, Kenya stands at a crossroads, with an opposition that has been accused of having breached the law when its leader took an unconstitutional oath, and a government striking back with a heavy hand.
Despite the precarious position that the country finds itself in, the US has commended security agencies for showing restraint during the Tuesday ceremony.
“We urge them to continue to refrain from any unnecessary or excessive use of force,” the US statement said as it asked the government to uphold protestors’ “right to assemble peacefully, to express their views freely, and to hold opinions without interference”.