By Peter Ssebulime
Three main television stations in Kenya were Tuesday switched off after airing live footage as the opposition prepared to swear-in Raila Odinga as the “people’s president”.
The Nation Media Group’s NTV, Royal Media’s Citizen, and Standard Group’s KTN News went off air mid-morning while showing live broadcasts of National Super Alliance (Nasa) supporters who had gathered at the historic Uhuru Park from as early as 5am.
The Kenyan government had on Monday been reported to have warned the media against airing Mr Odinga’s oath taking.
According to Kenya Editors’ Guild chairman Linus Kaikai, who is the NTV’s general manager, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto had summoned some media representatives to State House on Friday where they were threatened with shutdown and revocation of licences should they broadcast live the planned Nasa “swearing in”.
“This brazen threat is intended to intimidate the media from performing its rightful role of informing the public on matters affecting them,” Mr Kaikai said in a statement Monday.
The Daily Nation reported that the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) engineers had been told to be on standby on Tuesday at the country’s main transmission station in Limuru, in central Kenya, should any local TV station broadcast live the event at Uhuru Park.
Royal Media Service managing director Mr Wachira Waruru while confirming the switch-off on Tuesday said the government gave no reason for the move.
“We would like to confirm this morning that the Communication Authority of Kenya disconnected Citizen and Inooro TV transmission. There has been no official communication as to why this action was taken,” Mr Waruru said.
On Friday, Nasa declared that its leader Mr Odinga, 72, won the August 8 presidential election.
The veteran opposition leader who claims he has had three elections stolen from him, has refused to accept President Kenyatta’s re-election, which came after a deeply divisive 2017 polls season in which rights activists say at least 92 people were killed.
The election was annulled by the country’s Supreme Court for “illegalities and irregularities” which ordered a re-run on October 26.
Claiming the poll would not be fair, Mr Odinga boycotted the second election process soon before the D-day and Mr Kenyatta ‘won’ with 98 per cent.
Since boycotting the re-run poll, citing lack of reforms at the election commission, Nasa’s strategy has been to challenge Kenyatta’s legitimacy by seeking to establish parallel government structures.
Opposition politicians have convened so-called “people’s assemblies” in some counties and the inauguration of Odinga as “people’s president” is seen as the culmination of this process.
The “inauguration” has raised fears of violence as police had vowed not to allow the event to go ahead. However officers kept their distance as hundreds gathered at the Uhuru Park venue.
Kenya’s main opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (Nasa), has declared that its leader Raila Odinga won the August 8 presidential election. The election was annulled by the country’s Supreme Court for “illegalities and irregularities.”
Nasa said it based the assertion on an internal document it said it had compiled as the tallying of the presidential vote went on. The coalition said the electoral commission ignored the “authentic” results when it announced President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner.
According to Nasa, Mr Odinga garnered 8.1 million votes against President Kenyatta’s 7.8 million votes. The elections announced by the electoral commission showed Mr Kenyatta with 8.2 million votes against Mr Odinga’s 6.8 million votes.
Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) immediately released a statement terming Nasa’s allegations as unfounded.
Nasa said it would go ahead with the planned swearing in of Mr Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, scheduled for January 30, as the peoples’ president and deputy president respectively. Attorney General Githu Muigai said that the swearing in could attract treason charges.