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Protests as Ruto was declared president-elect after disputed vote result

#Protests #Ruto #declared #presidentelect #disputed #vote #result

William Ruto was declared the winner of Kenya’s hard-fought presidential election on Monday, but the result sparked a split in the electoral commission and some violent protests in strongholds of his defeated rival.

Ruto won on Aug. 9 with 50.49 percent of the vote, just ahead of Raila Odinga with 48.85 percent, the head of the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission, Wafula Chebukati, announced after waiting days for the results.

With tensions running high after the controversial result, the 55-year-old president-elect vowed to work with “all leaders”.

“There is no place for revenge,” said Ruto. “I’m very aware that our country is at a stage where we need all hands on deck.”

AFP correspondents reported that police fired live rounds as protests erupted in a Nairobi slum, an Odinga stronghold.

Police also fired tear gas at his lakeside bastion of Kisumu, where protesters threw stones and set up roadblocks with large boulders.

“We were betrayed,” said Isaac Onyango, 24, on a street cordoned off by two large bonfires and broken rocks.

“The government has to listen to us. You have to repeat the election. Raila Odinga must become President. We will continue to protest until the Kenyan Supreme Court listens to us.”

The dispute is likely to further damage the IEBC’s reputation after it faced harsh criticism for its handling of the 2017 election, which was annulled by the country’s top court in a historic first for Africa.

– “Intimidation and Harassment” –

Four out of seven IEBC commissioners rejected the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, with Deputy Chair Juliana Cherera calling the process “opaque”.

But Chebukati, who was also in charge of the IEBC in 2017, insisted he had fulfilled his duties under the country’s law despite facing “intimidation and harassment”.

The dispute will test Kenya’s stability after previous elections in East Africa’s political and economic powerhouse were quashed by allegations of rigging and vicious bouts of deadly violence.

The country of around 50 million people is already struggling with rising prices, a crippling drought, endemic corruption and growing disillusionment with the political elite.

It was lucky for the first time for the acting deputy president, a seedy businessman-turned-richesman who had described the vote as a battle between ordinary “hustlers” and the “dynasties” that have ruled Kenya since independence from Britain in 1963 dominated.

He succeeds President Uhuru Kenyatta, 60, the son of Kenya’s first post-independence leader, who served two terms and was constitutionally barred from standing for re-election.

Ruto had been promised Kenyatta’s support for the top job, only to see his boss throw his support behind former enemy Odinga and leave him out in the cold.

It was a blow to 77-year-old Odinga, who failed at the fifth attempt for the top spot despite having the weight of the party’s ruling machine behind him.

He has yet to comment on the result, but running mate Martha Karua said on Twitter, “It’s not over until it’s over”.

– disillusionment –

With memories of previous post-election violence still fresh, both Odinga and Ruto had pledged to accept the outcome of a free and fair election and to air their grievances in court rather than on the streets.

Election day was peaceful overall. But power transfers in Kenya are tense, and Odinga’s handling of defeat will be watched anxiously by the country’s foreign partners.

No presidential election has gone unchallenged in Kenya since 2002, and a Supreme Court challenge by Odinga is almost certain.

Barring a court motion, Ruto will take the oath of office in two weeks, becoming Kenya’s fifth president since independence.

Kenya’s month-long campaign saw a toxic mudsling on the hate speech and widespread disinformation swirling on social media.

While election day was largely peaceful, turnout was historically low at around 65 percent of the 22 million registered voters, and disillusionment with corruption at the hands of power-hungry elites prompted many Kenyans to stay home.

The disillusionment was particularly great among young Kenyans, who make up three quarters of the 50 million inhabitants.

– Next Steps –

Any challenge to the results must be lodged with the Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial authority, within seven days.

The court has 14 days to make a decision, and if it orders an annulment, a new vote must take place within 60 days.

In August 2017, the Supreme Court annulled the election after Odinga rejected the results that gave Kenyatta victory, with dozens of people killed by police in the protests that followed.

Kenyatta won the replay two months later after an opposition boycott.

The worst electoral violence in Kenya’s history came after a disputed vote in 2007 when more than 1,100 people were killed in bloodshed between rival tribes.

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