Kenya govt critic in court amid crackdown

2018-02-07 10:59

Nairobi, Feb 6, 2018 (AFP) -A Kenyan government critic appeared in court Tuesday to face charges related to the mock inauguration of the "people's president" Raila Odinga, as the authorities barred 14 opposition leaders from leaving the country.

Protestors and police clashed in the opposition's stronghold of western Kenya, and one man was killed.

Miguna Miguna stood alongside the opposition leader during his symbolic swearing-in in Nairobi last week in front of tens of thousands of supporters, seen as a fresh challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election.

The charge says Miguna and others abetted an illegal oath that could bind Odinga to committing treason.

Odinga himself has not been prosecuted over the mock inauguration.

Miguna is also accused of being a member of the National Resistance Movement, an opposition group banned last week by the government for being a "criminal organisation".

He entered no plea during his appearance at a Nairobi court.

On Thursday he goaded police, daring them to arrest him saying he had signed Odinga's oath, "So if you want to take me to court for doing my job, come, baby, come!"

He also urged supporters to "take down portraits of illegitimate president Kenyatta" and burn them.

Armed officers used explosives to break down the door of Miguna's Nairobi home in a dawn raid on Friday before arresting him.

Police ignored a judge's ruling to release Miguna ahead of his court appearance.

Miguna's arrest follows that of fellow government critics TJ Kajwang, a lawyer and MP who flanked Odinga during his mock inauguration, and George Aladwa, who is accused of helping to organise it.

Kenya's political scene was roiled by last year's deeply divisive election, in which rights activists say at least 92 people were killed.

An initial ballot on August 8 won by Kenyatta was annulled on technical grounds by the Supreme Court, which ordered a re-run on October 26.

Odinga argued the second poll would still not be fair and boycotted it. Kenyatta won with 98 percent of the vote.

Since then, the strategy of the National Super Alliance (NASA) opposition coalition has been to challenge Kenyatta's legitimacy by seeking to establish parallel government structures.

In a parallel development on Tuesday, the authorities announced they had banned 14 senior members of NASA from travelling abroad.

Their identities were not released. But some of them said publicly that they had been notified of a "suspension" of their passport.

"This will not stop me from fighting for justice," said Johnson Muthama, a former senator and prominent member of the NASA leadership.

In western Kenya, police used teargas to break up a large demonstration in Kisumu demanding Miguna's release, and in Ahero opened fire to disperse protestors, killing a man who according to his relatives had not taken part in the demonstration.

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