William Ruto, the son of a goat herder who has styled himself as Kenya’s “hustler-in-chief”, has been declared the winner of the country’s presidential election in a stinging rebuke of the entrenched political dynasties.
The results were announced on Monday afternoon after a chaotic brawl erupted in the main counting centre in the capital Nairobi where the results were announced.
Senior members of Raila Odinga’s campaign team refused to accept the loss and attacked the country’s top election official as he entered the hall to make the announcement, even throwing the official lectern off the stage, where it split into pieces.
Millions of Kenyans went to the polls in a hotly contested election last week. After five days of delays, the official tally put former deputy president Mr Ruto at 50.49 per cent and Mr Odinga, the former prime minister, at 48.85 per cent.
Mr Ruto’s victory marks a major shift in Kenyan politics. The 55-year-old managed to defeat a well-funded candidate who was supported by Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent president, and establishment.
However, the result has been marred by allegations of vote-rigging. Mr Odinga’s campaign has alleged there were “irregularities” and “mismanagement” in the election.
While there was no official comment from Mr Odinga, Martha Karua, his running mate, took to Twitter to write:
It is not over till it is over …..
— Martha Karua SC (@MarthaKarua) August 15, 2022
Moreover, four of the seven electoral commission members refused to endorse the announcement, claiming the results were “opaque”, indicating that Kenya may be facing a lengthy legal fight over the vote.
“We cannot take ownership of the result that is going to be announced because of the opaque nature of this last phase of the general election,” said Juliana Cherera, the vice-chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
“We are going to give a comprehensive statement… and again, we urge Kenyans to keep calm. There is an open door that people can go to court and the rule of law will prevail.”
Now the east African nation is on tenterhooks to see how the news will be received among the electorate. The spectre of 2007 – where more than 1,000 people were killed in horrific post-electoral violence after politicians played Kenya’s myriad ethnicities off against each other to get to power – is in the back of everyone’s mind.
Mr Ruto styled himself as a man of the people who used to sell chickens on the roadside, and will now reward other low-income “hustlers”. However, it is unclear what a Ruto presidency would look like.
He served as deputy president for almost nine years, but fell out with Mr Kenyatta, who backed Mr Odinga to succeed him in a schism which has captivated Kenyan politics since.
“His main priority will [now] be to uplift the people of Kenya from the current state capture that was put in by Uhuru Kenyatta,” Seif Maalim, who serves in Mr Ruto’s presidential committee, told The Telegraph.
However, the massive wealth that the president-elect has accrued while in government has raised many eyebrows and questions remain over his involvement in the 2007 massacre.
The International Criminal Court indicted Mr Ruto for orchestrating crimes against humanity during the violence. However, the case was eventually dropped in 2016 because of a lack of evidence and alleged witness tampering.
Kenya’s economy is in disarray after the triple shocks of the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the worst drought in decades, pushing millions into hunger. Economic suffering and anger against the country’s endemic corruption are widespread.
Protests were breaking out across Nairobi and in Mr Odinga’s heartlands in western Kenya, with security companies sending subscribers a volley of warnings by text.
After the fighting calmed down in the main counting hall, Mr Ruto made his way on stage to make his maiden speech as president-elect on the miraculously reconstructed lectern.
“There are no losers. The people of Kenya have won because we raised the political bar,” he said.
“To those who have done many things against us, I want to tell them there’s nothing to fear. There will be no vengeance. We do not have the luxury to look back.”
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