Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn into office for a second term in front of tens of thousands who gathered Tuesday in the country’s largest stadium to celebrate what they hoped would be the end of months of election turmoil.
But during the ceremony, police fired guns and tear gas in other parts of the capital, Nairobi, as officers attempted to stop the opposition from holding peaceful demonstrations in memory of dozens killed by police and militia during weeks of election protests. A witness said one person was shot dead.
Police patrolled the Jacaranda grounds where the leading opposition group, the National Super Alliance, had urged supporters to gather to remember those killed in post-election protests since August.
Kenya’s election drama meant months of uncertainty in East Africa’s economic hub. The Supreme Court nullified the August election results, citing irregularities, after a legal challenge by opposition leader Raila Odinga and ordered a new vote.
It was the first time in Africa that a court had nullified a presidential election, and Kenya’s events have been closely watched cross the continent by opposition parties and leaders alike.
Odinga and his supporters boycotted the repeat election last month, saying electoral reforms had not been made. Many opposition supporters on Tuesday were heeding Odinga’s call to gather and remember those killed in the months of turmoil.
Odinga has called Kenyatta’s inauguration a “coronation” instead.
Several regional heads of state attended Kenyatta’s inauguration amid tight security as the country attempted to move forward, even as questions about electoral reforms lingered.
Kenyatta was sworn in using a Bible that had been used to swear in his father, founding president Jomo Kenyatta, at independence in 1963.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Kenya in honor of the inauguration but did not attend the ceremony due to security concerns.
He will be holding a series of bilateral meetings with 11 African leaders during his one-day trip.
Speaking before his departure for Kenya, Netanyahu said the visit to Nairobi “is to deepen [Israel’s] ties with Africa, including by establishing connections with nations with which we do not have diplomatic relations.”
He reiterated the government’s new focus on developing ties in Africa. “Four [Israeli] diplomatic offices have been opened in Africa in the past two years, and I hope that by the end of today I will be able to announce the opening of yet another Israeli embassy in an African nation. And this is just the beginning.”