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Kenya Opposition Presidential Candidate Refuses To Give Up

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. We're going to turn now to Kenya, where an opposition candidate is still refusing to give up.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Raila Odinga lost two presidential elections, but he says there was fraud. And to protest, he is now holding his own swearing-in ceremony today. Police have been firing tear gas at Odinga's supporters.

GREENE: OK. NPR's Eyder Peralta is there in Nairobi and joins us. Hi, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: So there's music behind you. There's activity. What exactly is happening today?

PERALTA: So today, Raila Odinga has said that he will take the oath of office. And we have thousands of people gathered at the big city park in Nairobi - Independence Park in Nairobi. And just to set up the kind of conflict here, the government has said that if Raila Odinga takes the oath of office, it is treason, and that is punishable by death.

GREENE: Wow.

PERALTA: And he says he will go along with this, and thousands of his supporters have come here to see it.

GREENE: OK. So there have been two elections. The Supreme Court has made its decision. Odinga is not the winner. Why protest? And also, why take this risk if you're him? I mean, if you're being threatened with the death penalty?

PERALTA: Well, you know, what people here and what he has said is that this president is corrupt, that he has stolen multiple elections, and that he has stoked ethnic divisions. And they feel marginalized, and, you know, they believe this is the moment that they've been waiting for since the independence of Kenya. They believe that two tribes in this country have dominated the political space and that it is now time for the other, you know, 30-some tribes to take over.

So that's - you know, they feel marginalized, and they feel like the elections have been stolen from them, and that's at the heart of this. There's a lot of dissatisfaction with the government, and that's what you see manifested on the streets. But, as you said, this oath will not be legal. This is a merely symbolic action by Raila Odinga, the opposition leader.

GREENE: So is it just symbolic, or, as you listen to people, do you get the feeling that this could go on for some time and really divide the country?

PERALTA: I think that's hard to tell because, you know, Kenya has seen lots of political violence in its history, and it's hard to tell where this goes from here. And I don't think the people here, the thousands of people gathered here, know the answer to that. You know, I think they're also very angry with what the government has done. Today they shut down three of the major television stations. And so they think that they're fighting against repressive government, they believe.

GREENE: All right, a tense moment in Kenya. That's Eyder Peralta reporting for us in Nairobi, where an opposition candidate who has lost several elections, according to the courts, is saying that he is going to take his own oath of office, which the government says would be treason. Eyder, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.

PERALTA: Thank you, David.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE SHAOLIN AFRONAUTS' "LOS ANGELES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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