NAIROBI — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term on Tuesday amid thunderous applause of supporters even as pro-government forces fired on protesters angered by the contentious election process that kept him in power.
The inauguration capped an incredibly fraught few months for Kenya that saw an election canceled, weeks of unrest, an opposition boycott and finally a new election that gave Kenyatta 98 percent of the vote, but with a turnout of less than 40 percent.
Even as Kenyatta was sworn in, police across town opened fire on opposition demonstrators, with reports of at least one dead.
Taking the oath on the same Bible used by his father — Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta in 1964 — the capacity crowd erupted into cheers in the 60,000 seat Kasarani Stadium decked out in the red and gold of Kenyatta’s party. Neighboring heads of state looked on, including the leaders of Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.
So many people tried to push into the stadium for the event that police had to fire tear gas outside the venue to control the crowd.
”This is the day that we have been waiting for. It’s finally here. Our God had done this for us. The elections have tormented and almost destroyed our country. We hope that this will be the beginning of a new chapter,” said 30-year-old businessman Marvin Muriithi Munyua. “Let’s now focus in our country.”
The extended election season stretching from August until the inauguration exacerbated the deep divisions. Support for Kenyatta and his opponent, Raila Odinga, broke along on ethnic lines. The business community also backed Odinga while many in more marginalized regions turned to Odinga to stem the endemic corruption in the country.
Odinga attempted to stage a parallel prayer rally during the inauguration for those killed during the election-related violence. Some 70 people are estimated to have died in confrontations with police over the past few months.
The government declared the rally illegal, and blocked the roads leading to the Jacaranda grounds, preventing it from taking place.
Residents of the area said police used live fire to disperse protesters. The residents held up spent cartridges as evidence that gunfire was used. At least one body was seen.
The crowd chanted “Uhuru must go” and “Thief.”
Supporters barricaded streets in the neighborhood with stones and said the forces attacking them were the so-called Mungiki, a pro-government gang, rather than police.
“They are following people into the houses and killing them,” said one man, who didn’t provide his name amid the chaos of chanting protesters. “This is not the country we are going to live in . . . this is more than a dictatorship.”
Odinga withdrew from the Oct. 26 election rerun saying that nothing had been done to address the problems that led to the first set of election results to be annulled.
Within hours of Kenyatta’s victory, he said his party, the National Super Alliance would be transformed into a resistance movement that would use civil disobedience and boycotts to target the government and its corporate backers.
Kenya is East Africa’s most diverse and richest economy, but the election turmoil has harmed economic growth.
Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia contributed to this report