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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 8th February 2018

Kenya's authoritarian drift

Blue Lines

It took Chief Justice David Maraga to give a constitutional perspective to the political ructions in Kenya over the last week. The government has ignored court orders to lift its closure of four television stations that broadcast Raila Odinga's theatrical inauguration as 'People's President' on 30 January. And instead of producing Miguna Miguna, the self-styled general of Odinga's National Resistance Movement, on 7 February as the court ordered, the government deported Miguna, who has dual Canadian-Kenyan nationality, the day before. Obeying court orders is not optional, Maraga pointed out: it is an obligation in a constitutional democracy.

Developments in Kenya over the past year, such as the shooting of opposition supporters and serial harassment of dissidents have prompted comparisons with Daniel arap Moi's authoritarianism. Arrests of opposition MPs and suspending the passports of Odinga's allies are part of a growing crackdown. And the publication of a fake obituary of Jimi Wanjigi, an opposition financier, in a Nairobi daily points to a particularly sinister sense of humour among Odinga's adversaries. Some fear the next step might be the arrest of Odinga himself, a move that would surely send up the balloon in areas such as Nairobi's Kibera and upcountry Kisumu.

Odinga argues that post-election disputes make Uhuru Kenyatta's government illegitimate. Flouting court orders, forced deportations and suspending passports is profoundly helping his argument.