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Despite the chaos and a physical attack on Kenya’s top election official, the country’s electoral commission has announced Vice President William Ruto as the East African nation’s fifth president.
In an election marked by great drama and shifting alliances, Ruto triumphed over Raila Odinga, Kenya’s longtime opposition leader who had forged an alliance with incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta who his supporters say guaranteed him the presidency.
But after six days of counting and just as the electoral commission was preparing to announce a final count on Monday, four of the seven electoral commissioners left the main counting center in Nairobi, saying they could not support the final result. due to the “opacity” of the vote count.
The chairman of the commission, Wafula Chebukati, took the stage anyway and chaos ensued. He was attacked by a senator. Others jumped onto the stage, tore down banners, knocked over the lectern and attacked the remaining election commissioners.
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Two of them were injured, but Chebukati returned to the stage once again and said Ruto narrowly won with 50.49% of the vote to Odinga’s 48.85%.
“We have a constitutional duty to perform,” he said. “That is why I stand before you today despite intimidation and harassment. I have taken an oath to serve this country and have done my duty in accordance with the constitution and laws of the country.”
Kenya is a model of democracy in East Africa, a region where authoritarianism is on the rise. These elections were hailed as a step forward for Kenyan democracy because the campaign was marked by political maturity. Politicians focused on economic issues, instead of the tribal mobilization that has been a feature of every Kenyan election since independence.
And these elections also began as the most transparent in the country’s history. Just hours after voting ended, the election commission began releasing raw vote data from more than 46,000 polling stations. This meant anyone could tally the votes and check the election commission’s calculations.
In his first speech as president-elect, Ruto spoke of reconciliation. He said he would not seek revenge against his political opponents and called on Kenyans to work together.
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“I want to promise the people of Kenya that I will lead a democratic government and work with the opposition as they oversee the government,” Ruto said.
But across the capital, party scenes mixed with anger. In the city’s two largest slums – Mathare and Kibera – protests have turned violent. In Mathare, a woman was killed after a mob threw rocks at her car and she overturned.
In Kibera, protesters set fires in the middle of the streets and mobs destroyed roadside shops.
“We are angry,” said Jared Ochieng, 55, watching the flames from afar. “This is not what we expected. Now what can help Kenya is to go to another election.”
Odinga, the opposition leader, did not appear in public, but his running mate, Martha Karua, tweeted“It’s not over until it’s over.”
Odinga now has seven days to appeal to the country’s constitutional court.