After seven days of being shut down, Kenyan News channels NTV and KTN were back on. Citizen TV and Inooro TV were still not restored. This was all reported on Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper. The stations were blocked off on the day the symbolic “swearing in” ceremony of opposition leader Raila Odinga as the “People’s President” was supposed to be aired.
Raila Odinga’s ceremony was symbolic of him declaring himself the “People’s President.” He boycotted the election last year due to claims of election fraud against the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta. Their rivalry went back decades. The international community generally accepts Uhuru Kenyatta as the legitimate, democratically elected leader of Kenya.
Organized by Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA), thousands of opposition supports showed up to the rally in Uhuru Park to protest against the current president and support Raila Odinga. They were seen waving tree branches and proclaiming chants. The event was rather peaceful: the thousands of supports left quickly after the ceremony concluded. There were some crowds attempting to tear down signs near the park and police threw tear gas at them, but this seems to be the only reported police interaction having to do with the event. Authorities were aware of the event and had previously stated that they would be present to stop any illegal activities there, but there was no uniformed police or anti-riot officer visible at the event.
Raila Odinga could face treason charges for declaring himself president of Kenya, but he has stated multiple times that he is not afraid. Treason in Kenya is punishable by death. His biography on his verified Twitter account was even changed to “This is the official account of His Excellency Raila Amolo Odinga, President of the Republic of Kenya” shortly after the mock ceremony. This shows how much risk Raila Odinga is willing to take in order to make a change in Kenya. His political ideology is loosely based on social democracy and is more aligned with the United States left-wing politics. He and his party are attempting to create an alternative government.
The channels that were shut off were free-to-air channels, meaning they were accessible to anyone. Kenya was famous for having one of the most vibrant and open presses in sub-Saharan Africa, thus giving this unprecedented move even more scorn. President Kenyatta expressly threatened to shut down and revoke the licenses of any media that broadcast the planned “symbolic ceremony” and swearing in of NASA leader Raila Odinga. Editors Guild Chairman Linus Kaikai had confirmed this in a statement on Monday night.
The Kenya Commission on Human Rights and the Committee to Protect Journalists were critical of the current President’s decision to shut down the news stations. “Kenyan authorities have restricted media coverage at a critical moment and violated the public’s right to information about important events,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW). Indeed, the shutting down of these free, publicly accessible channels strips away basic rights of the Kenyan people, something the current president has been regularly criticized for.