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March 21, 2018

What is treason? The case of defiant NASA chief Raila Odinga

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, of the National Super Alliance, leads a commemoration in Nairobi's KIbera slum of the lives of his supporters killed during confrontations with security forces, November 28, 2017. /REUTERS
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, of the National Super Alliance, leads a commemoration in Nairobi's KIbera slum of the lives of his supporters killed during confrontations with security forces, November 28, 2017. /REUTERS

As Opposition leader Raila Odinga prepares for his swearing-in, Attorney General Githu Muigai has warned that treason is punishable by death.

"High treason" is what Muigai used earlier on Thursday to refer to moves for a parallel government.

“The criminal law of the Republic of Kenya, in Article 40 of the penal code provides or stipulates that that sort of process, is high treason,” he noted.

So, just what is treason?

According to the Section 40 of the Penal Code, treason is where an individual or persons:

(a) compasses, imagines, invents, devises or intends -

(i) the death, maiming or wounding, or the imprisonment or restraint, of the President; or

(ii) the deposing by unlawful means of the President from his position as President or from the style, honour and name of Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kenya; or

(iii) the overthrow by unlawful means of the Government; and (b) expresses, utters or declares any such compassings, imaginations, inventions, devices or intentions by publishing any printing or writing or by any overt act or deed, is guilty of the offence of treason

However, the constitution says that no person charged with treason, or with any of such felonies, can be convicted, except on their own plea of guilt or if there is evidence offered in open court by at least two witnesses to an overt act of treason or felony alleged.

'Moi era'

Treason, concealment of treason and subversion charges were used to detain and imprison numerous critics of the Moi regime. The adoption of the 2010 constitution did not lead to a repeal or amendment of these laws.

Subsequent to the 1982 coup, 12 plotters - including armaments technician Corporal Bramwel Njereman, Corporal Walter Ojode, Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Otenyo - were convicted of treason and sentenced to death.

The men were executed on the night of July 10, 1985 at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.

At the end of the putsch, a total of 12 people had been sentenced to death and more than 900 jailed.

Raila wants to be inaugurated through the People's Assembly.

The Opposition leaders says the swearing-in and the establishment of peoples’ assemblies is to protest electoral injustices that have taken place in Kenya.

In the August 8 general election, the Supreme Court nullified the win of Uhuru Kenyatta saying there were massive irregularities.

Read: Raila wins as Supreme Court nullifies Uhuru re-election

But Raila claimed the electoral commission did not follow the rules as per the court's verdict, causing him to withdraw from the repeat October 26 race.

He asked IEBC to conduct another credible election in 90 days, saying Uhuru's presidency was illegitimate.

The ODM leader later transformed NASA into a resistance movement saying they will fight for electoral justice, so incumbents do not bribe their way into lengthy presidencies.

 Read: Raila withdraws from race, demands fresh election

Also read: Uhuru still illegitimate president, resistance on, Raila tells BBC

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