Netanyahu guest of honor in Kenya as clashes erupt over Kenyatta inauguration
SIMON MAINA (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given pride of place Tuesday at the inauguration for Kenya's newly re-elected president Uhuru Kenyatta, as clashes erupted following two disputed polls that have left the nation deeply divided.
The pomp of Kenyetta's inauguration ceremony contrasted with clouds of teargas fired at opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters as they attempted to rally elsewhere in Nairobi. At least two people were shot dead in clashes with police.
Throwing down the gauntlet, Odinga rejected Kenyatta's inauguration and vowed to hold his own swearing-in on December 12, the day the country marks its independence from Britain.
Netanyahu was the only head of government from outside Africa to attend Kenyetta's swearing-in ceremony, after he won 98% of the vote in a controversial election in which just over a third of eligible voters cast a ballot.
The Israeli premier, who has spearheaded a push to gain a diplomatic and economic foothold in fast-growing and resource-rich Africa, was invited to sit next to Kenyetta at a lunch of leaders to celebrate the inauguration, a statement from his office said.
His office added that he met with the presidents of African states Gabon, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda, South Sudan, Botswana and Namibia, and with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.
On Twitter, he announced that Israel would be opening a new embassy in the Rwandan capital Kigali, as the two countries negotiate over the deportation from Israel of thousands of African migrants who the Netanyahu government wants to expel.
In remarks before departing Israel, Netanyahu appeared unfazed by the turmoil that was expected in Nairobi upon his arrival.
"I am now leaving for my third visit to Africa within a year-and-a-half. I will meet there with newly re-elected Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and with 10 African leaders as well," Netanyahu said. "Our intention is to deepen ties with Africa also by forging links with countries that we do not have diplomatic relations with."
"Legations from four African countries have opened in Israel in the past two years and I hope that by the end of the day I will be able to announce the opening of a new Israeli embassy in an African country, and the hand is still extended," he added.
Odinga's supporters engaged in running battles with police all morning as they attempted to gather for a "memorial rally" to honour nearly 60 people killed, mostly by police, in over four months of political upheaval sparked by a disputed August 8 election that was late annulled by the Supreme Court.
A senior police officer who earlier reported one fatality said: "We are aware there is another person dead and it has been said that he was also shot dead."
Another policeman said six people had been injured by gunfire.
Odinga spoke to a crowd of hundreds from atop his car briefly before police lobbed teargas at the convoy, forcing them to disperse.
Meanwhile at the 60,000-seat Kasarani stadium, military parades, a 21-gun salute, traditional dancing and drumming accompanied Kenyatta's vows to heal the wounded nation.
"I will devote my time and energy to build bridges, to unite and bring prosperity," he said as he started his second term faced with a large portion of the population that rejects his election outright.
Kenyatta, 56, took two oaths of office as his second five-year term was sealed by the signature of Chief Justice David Maraga.
An election victory in August was overturned by the Supreme Court, forcing him to face a re-run that was boycotted by the opposition.
(Staff with AFP)
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