Kenya’s election: What Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory means for Africa
International criminal court indictee Uhuru Kenyatta was officially declared the winner of Kenya’s presidential election yesterday, although his rival, Raila Odinga, will not concede defeat and a legal challenge alleging widespread fraud is certain.
Kenyatta won by the slimmest of margins, earning 50.07% of the vote to clinch a first-round win, in an election that saw a record turnout of 84.9% of registered voters. Kenyans waited for nearly a week for its beleaguered electoral body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, to announce the result. So far protests have remained peaceful in a country known for ethnic violence.
“This is a coming of age for Kenya,” Kenyatta said in his acceptance speech. “Despite the misgivings of many in the world, we have demonstrated a level of political maturity that surpassed expectation. We voted in peace, we upheld order and respect for the rule of law, and maintained the fabric of our society.“
Kenyan media called the election for Kenyatta before dawn after the electoral commission posted results from the last constituencies, but did not officially crown Kenyatta the winner until yesterday. In the dawn hours, Kenyatta supporters blew whistles and vuvuzelas in celebration.
A Kenyatta presidency has worried western governments, which may have to limit diplomatic contact with Kenya due to the international criminal court charges against him. Kenya is an ally of the west in combating terror in Africa, and Nairobi, the capital, is home to a UN headquarters.
The ICC, based in The Hague, is a particular focus of African anger. The court accuses Kenyatta of being one of four Kenyans who orchestrated the bloody tribal violence which followed the last election in 2007-8. After paramilitary police loyal to the incumbent Mwai Kibaki — also from Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe — stormed the counting center, and shortly thereafter officials declared their candidate the winner, the country erupted in weeks of killing in which around 1,200 died and tens of thousands were displaced. The ICC intervened to try to bring those most responsible for the violence to account after concluding Kenya was unable to do so for itself.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, released a statement after the election saying America would remain “a strong friend and ally of the Kenyan people“, but outgoing assistant secretary of state for Africa Johnnie Carson had previously warned of “consequences” for Kenya’s government with Kenyatta in office.
In his acceptance speech, Kenyatta told the international community that he would work with the ICC prosecution. “To the nations of the world I give you my assurance that … we will continue to co-operate with all nations and institutions” he said.
“However,” he added, “we also expect that the international community will respect the sovereignty and the democratic rule of Kenya.” Kenyatta has called the ICC charges western meddling in Kenyan affairs.