Yesterday Raila Odinga, the long-time politician (he's over 70 years old which is no small feat in this country) who was ultimately declared the loser in the presidential election held his own swearing-in ceremony as "the people's president". He swore an oath to uphold Kenya's constitution, on a Bible, and gave a short speech. President Uhuru Kenyatta who had been declared the actual winner after two full elections in August (the courts declared invalid) and October and was sworn in officially months ago warned that this alternative ceremony would be a treasonable offense. Police were prepared with tear gas, security details the government routinely provides politicians were withdrawn, and three TV stations were shut down. It looked like another day of disaster and violence was about to ensue as thousands and thousands of people gathered in the center of the city.
(photos from news sites still posting on line)
Instead, the day unfolded peacefully. Raila's supporters cheered. The country had to admit that vast numbers of people are not satisfied with the politics. Without police reaction, the violence was kept to a minimum. Unlike the normal post-Raila event, there were no riots, no looting, no rocks and battles. Kenyans turned out for a peaceful protest, and impressively did just that.
Still one has to wonder, what next? It seems the government wisely decided not to provoke a confrontation that would escalate to bloodshed, and let the event occur then fizzle. It seems that Odinga's deputy declined to show up. Life went on. Swearing oaths is an important cultural institution, with layers of meaning I'm sure I don't understand. What does a deeply divided country do now?
Limp forward I suppose. We still don't have enough staff. Our hospital is running on less than half the number of nurses we should have. Only one new doctor has been posted in spite of losing others. Oxygen petered out on the weekend. It's not clear whether our internship program will stay accredited. Today we found that a little 8 month old girl who dodged AIDS from her infected mother inexplicably has a brain tumor. There is always another sorrow which we are ill equipped to handle.
Kenyans excel in humor and resilience, and courage. They will keep marching to protests, and keep plodding to work. Here's to hoping they find ways to focus this activism on holding their elected representatives accountable, quashing corruption, and innovating solutions. Oh Kenya, may justice be our shield and defender so we can dwell in unity, peace and liberty.