In Kenya, Vice President William Ruto wins the presidential election by the wire

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In front of a kiosk, where two daily newspapers announce the name of the new president, William Ruto, in Kisumu (Kenya), on August 16, 2022.

After six days of ballot counting, the presidential election took a chaotic turn on Monday, August 15, in Kenya. At the end of a day marked by the split in the electoral commission, the outgoing vice-president, William Ruto, was declared the winner in the first round of the ballot, with 50.49% of the votes. A consecration on the wire, contested by the opposing camp, which is already considering filing an appeal with the Supreme Court. The gap is indeed slim: 233,000 votes separate the current number two in the government from his main opponent, Raila Odinga.

At 77, the latter was competing for the fifth time in the presidential election. A candidacy that ended in another defeat: given ahead in the polls and supported by the outgoing president, Uhuru Kenyatta, the veteran of Kenyan politics ultimately won only 48.85% of the vote. Walled in silence since the announcement of the results, he has seven days to challenge the results with the Supreme Court. “As long as it’s not over, everything is still possible”said his running mate, Martha Karua, on his Twitter account.

Read also: Kenya: William Ruto declared winner of the presidential election, scenes of chaos at the electoral commission

In the event of an appeal, Kenya’s highest court has fourteen days to render its decision. If there were to be a cancellation of the poll, as in 2017, a new election would then have to be held within sixty days.

scuffles

Cantor of the “Hustler Nation” (the “nation of the resourceful”), William Ruto, aged 55, will therefore probably have to wait a little longer before officially succeeding Kikuyu Uhuru Kenyatta at the State House, and becoming the fifth president of the country. But the current number two in the government can already boast of an unusual background: that of a man of modest origins, a member of the Kalenjin ethnic group and son of a couple of farmers from the Rift Valley, who knew how to climb the ladder to overthrow the « dynasties » Kenyan politicians, as he calls these families who have monopolized power since the country’s independence in 1963.

The preliminary results, broadcast throughout the week by the television channels, gave until the end the two main candidates neck and neck, Raila Odinga and William Ruto flirting in turn with the 50% mark. Praised for its professionalism throughout the process, the electoral commission ended up disintegrating on Monday. Four commissioners out of seven defected a few hours before the announcement of the results. “I cannot recognize the results because of the opaque way in which they were managed”, announced, during an improvised press conference in a hotel in Nairobi, the vice-president of the electoral commission, Juliana Cherera, promising additional information in the coming days. The four challengers to the commission, however, do not have the power to overturn the results.

Supporters of William Ruto demonstrate at the Catholic University of East Africa's United Democratic Alliance Communications Center in Nairobi on August 15, 2022.

Scuffles had already broken out during the weekend between electoral agents in the enclosure of Bomas, a cultural center of Nairobi transformed for the occasion into the headquarters of the electoral commission. On Saturday August 13, feeling that the balance was beginning to tip in favor of the opposing camp, the main representative of Raila Odinga, Saitabao Kanchory, took the microphone: “I want to tell Kenyans that the Bomas are a crime scene”he had launched, without further details on possible irregularities.

Read also: In Kenya, an extremely tight presidential election

“No room for revenge”

On Monday, the same man physically attacked three commissioners who were about to announce the final results. The scene turned into general chaos. Two marshals were injured and a desk thrown from the top of the podium. A few minutes later, Wafula Chebukati, the president of the electoral commission, somehow managed to announce the final results: “I have to stand in front of you despite the intimidation”he said, before declaring William Ruto the winner.

In this shambles, it is very difficult to predict the next turn of events. “Now we call on all parties to work together and in peace to resolve their disagreements through existing mechanisms. We also demand that all political leaders continue to urge their supporters to calm down and renounce any kind of violence.”, urged the US Embassy in Nairobi, in a statement. In his victory speech, President-elect William Ruto pledged “there would be no room for revenge”.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Presidential election in Kenya: William Ruto, self-proclaimed “resourceful” candidate

Several observers fear a possible conflagration of Kenya, as was the case during the 2007 election, where more than 1,100 people were killed in post-election clashes. In fact, Raila Odinga’s supporters, particularly from “his” community, the Luo (12% of the population), descended on neighborhoods in the capital, Nairobi, and Kisumu, the main opposition stronghold, after the results are announced.

Risk of yet another post-election crisis

In the huge slum of Kibera, in the south of Nairobi, hundreds of men demonstrated while waiting for a statement from their leader. Dallas Musa, local radio presenter, predicts “a chaos to come” in this district, where Raila Odinga was a deputy for twenty-four years. “History repeats itself again and again. Raila lost. Again, he was overconfident. His supporters will again fight for a few days. It happens every time”laments the journalist.

Supporters of the Azimio La Umoja party demonstrate against the Kenyan presidential election results, in Nairobi on August 15, 2022.

Monday, in the neighboring popular district of Kawangware, all the shops had lowered the curtain. A few men were replaying the film of the elections on the side of the road. “The process is not 100% complete, noted, tired, Martin, a motorcycle taxi. It will be completely over when I see [William] Ruto take an oath on the Bible. But even Odinga supporters aren’t demonstrating here tonight. We are tired of fighting in every election”he explains.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In western Kenya, the endless wait for Raila Odinga

Kenya, where 2 million people have plunged into poverty since the Covid-19 pandemic, risks sinking into yet another post-election crisis, despite calls for calm. The day before the announcement of the results, the candidates went simultaneously to the church and both preached peace there. But can we believe in the good faith of William Ruto and Raila Odinga? Former allies in the 2007 election, the two men had been at the heart of the worst crisis in independent Kenya.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In Kenya, “no food, no elections!” “: inflation and economic distress at the heart of the presidential campaign

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