Kenyans protest after William Ruto's election triumph

Maasai wait in line to cast their votes in the general election at a polling station in Esonorua Primary School, in Kajiado County, Kenya Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. (Ben Kurtis/AP)

On Monday, Kenya's electoral commission chairman declared Deputy President William Ruto the winner of the close presidential election over five-time candidate Raila Odinga, a victory for the man who shook up politics by appealing to struggling Kenyans on economic rather than traditional ethnic grounds.

According to the chairman, Ruto earned 50.49 percent of the vote with over 7.1 million votes, while Odinga received 48.85 percent of the vote with over 6.85 million votes in Tuesday's peaceful election. Just before the announcement, however, four of the seven electoral commissioners informed journalists they could not support the "opaque nature" of the last round of vote verification.

Without providing specifics, vice chair Juliana Cherera stated, "We cannot take ownership of the result that is going to be announced," Before election commission head Wafula Chebukati delivered the official results, police rushed to the declaration site to restore order amid yelling and scuffles. Chebukati also reported that the two commissioners who remained with him had been hurt.

The dramatic split in the committee occurred minutes after Odinga's chief agent stated that they could not check the results and made unsubstantiated claims of "electoral offenses" Odinga did not attend the event.

Now Kenyans are waiting to see if Odinga will again challenge the election results in court in this vital country for regional stability. This is likely the last attempt for the 77-year-old opposition figure, backed this time by the erstwhile adversary and departing President Uhuru Kenyatta. They lost out with his vice president, Ruto, years ago.

"ANNOUNCED RESULTS BY IEBC Chairman Wafuka Chebukati ARE VOID, since he lacked a quorum of commissioners to have a plenary and make such a serious judgment. Currently, the ongoing process at Bomas is ILLEGAL "Odinga spokesman Makau Mutua declared in a tweet. Former justice minister and Odinga's running mate Martha Karua tweeted, "It is not over until it is over,"

Candidates and others have seven days to file any election results challenges. The Supreme Court has 14 days to render a decision.

The streets of Kenya, crowded with anticipating supporters, exploded with joy and rage. As night struck, Odinga supporters torched tires in the dense Nairobi suburb of Kibera, shouting "No Raila, no peace,"

Despite being marginalized by the president, 55-year-old Ruto fought back and reminded voters the race was between "hustlers" like him from modest origins and the "dynasties" of Kenyatta and Odinga. Their fathers were Kenya's first president and vice president, respectively, and Odinga has been seeking the presidency for twenty-five years.

In his acceptance speech, Ruto congratulated Odinga and stressed the election's focus on problems rather than ethnic tensions, stating that "gratitude goes to millions of Kenyans who refused to be boxed into tribal cocoons." People who opposed his campaign "have nothing to fear ... There is no room for vengeance." he continued.

This election's 65% participation rate reflects Kenyans' fatigue with seeing the same old political leaders on the ballot and their displeasure with the dire economic conditions in the economic powerhouse of East Africa. At the highest levels, Kenyan politics are frequently characterized less by ideological platforms than by partnerships that pave the way to power and the associated money.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court halted an attempt by Kenyatta to make sweeping changes to the constitution, including creating a prime minister position that some believed Kenyatta would assume if Odinga won.

Odinga, renowned for his lengthy imprisonment while campaigning for multiparty democracy decades ago and for his support of Kenya's trailblazing 2010 constitution, appeared to many Kenyans as a member of the establishment since he supported the proposed constitutional revisions.

Despite his current position and fortune, Ruto positioned himself as an arrogant outsider and emphasized his childhood as a chicken vendor. Daniel Arap Moi, who mentored a teenage Ruto and governed a one-party government that Odinga battled against, profoundly impacted the careers of both men.

In this election, the electoral commission increased its openness by uploading more than 46,000 results forms online from around the country, thus enabling Kenyans to complete the tallying themselves. For the first time, the public could track the election as hesitant local media outlets, and even private citizens collated and disseminated information as a check on the official process. Such tallies indicated that Ruto was in the lead.

As Kenyans awaited official election results for nearly a week, Odinga and Ruto urged for peace, repeating appeals by police, civil society groups, and religious leaders in a nation where previous elections were marred by political violence.

During the 2007 election, more than a thousand people were slain after Odinga claimed he had been cheated out of victory in widely viewed flawed polls. Ruto, then an associate of Odinga, was indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for his role in the violence. Still, the case was dismissed due to charges of witness intimidation.

Odinga boycotted the re-election that Kenyatta won and declared himself the "people's president" in a ceremony that led to allegations of treason when the high court annulled the 2017 election results for irregularities a first in Africa. Odinga and Kenyatta joined hands publicly to restore order after dozens of people were violently slain.

Kenyans want this tranquility to persist. "Leaders are there to come and go," Richard Osiolo, a resident of the western Nyanza area, stated over the weekend, dismissing the necessity to fight because competing candidates eventually reach an accord. "I should stay alive and see you lead, bad or good, and then I have another chance to choose another leader."

Each contender pledged to aid Kenya's underprivileged. Odinga offered government cash handouts to families living below the poverty line, and Ruto promised government spending of more than $1 billion a year to increase employment prospects in a nation where more than a third of young Kenyans are unemployed.

During the election, there were no restrictions on social media. In a region where veteran presidents such as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame are commonly accused of managing unfree and unfair elections, Kenya is viewed as a comparatively democratic and stable nation.

The prime minister of neighboring Ethiopia, the president of adjacent Somalia, and the president of Zimbabwe were among the African leaders who congratulated Ruto immediately.

After the election declaration, violent protests broke out in Kisumu, a stronghold for Odinga and other sections of Nairobi. According to AFP, which uploaded a video of Kisumu on Twitter on Monday afternoon, enraged protesters claimed the election was rigged while police shot tear gas to disperse them. It depicts two fires burning on the street, with one person pushing a heavy wooden object toward one of the flames as others watch in the background.

AFP said that as news of the election results reached Kisumu, massive groups of demonstrators gathered on a roundabout in the lakeside city, throwing stones and setting tires on fire while blocking roads with broken pebbles.

"It was neither fair nor free. We were defrauded, "Collins Odoyo, 26, told AFP as he ran to join the mob, barefoot and with a vuvuzela horn strapped to his back, that he was an Odinga supporter.

According to AFP correspondents, police shot live ammunition as protests erupted in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, where Odinga is popular.

In Kibera, one of the largest slums in Nairobi, young followers, who refer to him as "Baba" or "father" in Swahili, demanded a re-run while throwing stones.

"Baba's vote has been stolen," stated motorbike taxi driver Emmanuel Otieno.

"Stop lying to Kenyans, we know Baba won," said another demonstrator, Eliud Omolo, while brandishing a Baba Odinga-supporting sign.

Publish : 2022-08-16 10:43:00

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