Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta was elected the country’s new president despite facing an international crimes-against-humanity trial, provisional election commission figures showed yesterday.
Kenyatta took 50.03 percent of the vote, according to constituency tallies released in the early hours yesterday, to become the African country’s new leader 50 years after his independence hero father, Kenya’s founding president.
The 51-year-old outgoing deputy prime minister — charismatic, able to appeal to all classes and one of Africa’s richest men — is the first leader to take power whilst facing trial in The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).
Kenyatta, whose first name means “freedom” in Swahili, won a majority of more than 800,000 votes over his opponent, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the 68-year-old who was on his third failed bid at the top job.
However, Kenyatta, who won 6,173,433 votes out of a total 12,338,667 ballots cast, scraped through the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a second-round run-off by just more than 4,000 votes.
Odinga trailed in second place with 43.28 percent with a total of 5,340,546 votes.
Once the results were released Kenyatta’s supporters launched into victory celebrations. In Nakuru, a Rift Valley town which voted massively for Kenyatta’s coalition, crowds packed the streets dancing frenetically and waving greenery in the air.
As Kenyatta’s supporters hugged and cheered in victory celebrations when the numbers were released, concerns were high as to how Odinga loyalists would react, five years on since a wave of bloodshed in which more than 1,100 people were killed following disputed December 2007 elections.
In Odinga’s stronghold of Kisumu tension was mounting on the edges of Kondele slum.
“We can’t accept this — we are ready to die, we are ready for anything,” said businessman Joshua Owino, a Luo like Odinga. “We are just waiting for Raila to talk.”
“We can’t take another 10 years of this — why is it always just one tribe ruling,” motorbike taxi driver David Onyango said.
Anyang’ Nyong’o, secretary general of Odinga’s party, said before the announcement of results that they would file a petition at the Supreme Court “because the process has been awful and there’s evidence to that effect.”
Asked whether he thought there had been systematic rigging in favor of one candidate he said: “I think so. There’s evidence to that effect.”
A formal results announcement was expected later yesterday, but the figures were shown on an official election commission electronic scoreboard that compiled results from all 291 constituencies.
Odinga also ran for president in 2007 and has always insisted he was robbed of victory, which went to his main rival Mwai Kibaki, who was backed by Kenyatta.
Protests then sparked bloody unrest that shattered Kenya’s image as a beacon of regional stability.
Both Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, 46, who now becomes Kenya’s vice-president, face crime against humanity trials over that violence before the ICC.