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Washington takes aim at Kenyan opposition, government

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Kenyan opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition leader Raila Odinga gestures before swearing himself in as the ‘people’s president’ on January 30, 2018 in Nairobi. Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga had himself sworn in as an alternative president in front of thousands of supporters, three months after an election he claims was stolen from him. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS TATO

The United States on Thursday rejected Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga’s “inauguration” as “people’s president,” while also criticizing the authorities’ crackdown on several broadcasters that tried to cover it live.

Odinga, 73, held the swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi earlier this week with thousands of supporters in attendance, another challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election last year following two votes that the opposition claims were rigged.

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Three of the country’s main private television channels had their live feeds of the event cut or blocked, but the country’s High Court allowed them to temporarily resume service on Thursday.

“The United States is gravely concerned by Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga’s self-‘inauguration’ on January 30,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

“Grievances must be resolved through appropriate legal mechanisms,” said Nauert, who also criticized “the government’s action to shut down, intimidate, and restrict the media.”

Odinga, a veteran opposition leader, has refused to accept Kenyatta’s re-election, which came after a deeply-divisive 2017 polls season in which rights activists say at least 92 people were killed.

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The first election was held on August 8, was won by Kenyatta and then annulled in a historic decision by the Supreme Court, which ordered a re-run on October 26.

Claiming the poll would not be fair, Odinga boycotted the second vote and Kenyatta won with 98 percent.

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