Kenya braces for legal battle after Ruto declared president-elect

The dramatic events of Monday, which saw Ruto declared president by a tiny margin as a split emerged in the electoral commission overseeing the Aug. 9 vote, have raised fears of violence like that seen after disputed polls in 2007 and 2017. African diplomats were among those calling for a peaceful resolution, adding their voices to those of the United Nations and the U.S. embassy in Kenya.


Reuters | Nairobi | Updated: 16-08-2022 16:17 IST | Created: 16-08-2022 16:03 IST
Kenya braces for legal battle after Ruto declared president-elect
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Kenya braced on Tuesday for a protracted legal battle after William Ruto was declared the victor in a closely fought presidential race over the objections of more than half the electoral commission, stoking fears of political violence. With memories still fresh of past post-election bloodshed in usually stable Kenya, defeated candidate Raila Odinga is under local and international pressure to call for calm and seek to resolve any concerns over the election outcome in the courts.

The veteran opposition leader, who lost his fifth bid for the presidency, will address the media at 1100 GMT, his spokesman said on Twitter. In the western city of Kisumu and Nairobi's huge Kibera slum, both Odinga strongholds, quiet returned to the streets after protesters battled police and burned tyres overnight.

Businesses were open as normal in most of the country, and people in areas that voted overwhelmingly for Ruto were in a celebratory mood. The dramatic events of Monday, which saw Ruto declared president by a tiny margin as a split emerged in the electoral commission overseeing the Aug. 9 vote, have raised fears of violence like that seen after disputed polls in 2007 and 2017.

African diplomats were among those calling for a peaceful resolution, adding their voices to those of the United Nations and the U.S. embassy in Kenya. "In my view it is over," one African diplomat said. "Kenyans don't want it (the electoral process) to drag."

The four commissioners who disowned the election results also said on Monday that the parties should seek resolution through the courts. Another diplomat said: "I think all messaging (to Odinga) is in the same direction. He would be mad to trot out the same strategies as 2017" - a reference to Odinga's call for mass street protests after losing the last presidential election.

Then, more than 100 people were killed after the Supreme Court overturned the result citing anomalies in the voting process. A decade earlier, more than 1,200 people were killed in widespread violence after the 2007 presidential vote. ODINGA'S NEXT MOVE

Makau Mutua, the head of Odinga's campaign think-tank, said officials of his Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) Alliance were discussing a course of action. "We are consulting among ourselves," Mutua told Reuters by phone. "It is a top line issue ... all options are on the table. No option has been ruled out at this moment."

He said the message sent by the four commissioners who disowned the results, was that "the chair of the commission does not have the authority to decide unilaterally the final results of the election". Neither the chairman of the electoral commission, Wafula Chebukati, who declared Ruto the winner with 50.49% of the vote against Odinga's 48.5%, nor the four commissioners who disowned the results responded to a Reuters request for comment.

Chebukati said in the government's official publication that Ruto and running mate, Rigathi Gachagua were president-elect and deputy president-elect. Ruto, the current deputy president and head of the Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) Alliance, had appeared to be leading Odinga as Kenyans awaited final results of the election.

Once in office, he will have to confront an economic and social crisis in East Africa's richest nation. Poor Kenyans already reeling from the impact of COVID-19 have been hit by global rises in food and fuel prices while a devastating drought in the north has left 4.1 million people dependent on food aid. The 55-year-old had made Kenya's class divisions the centrepiece of his campaign to become Kenya's fifth president, promising to reward low-income "hustlers."

ANXIOUS WAIT In Kisumu, the mood was subdued, with many shops shuttered and roads dotted with large stones and marks from burned tyres.

Some residents said they were waiting for Odinga's signal. Nancy Achieng arrived on Tuesday morning to find the wooden stall from which she sold foods at the side of the road in the Kondele neighbourhood destroyed.

"I've lost the election and I've also lost my business," said Achieng, who had been selling beans, chapati and roasted maize there for two years. "I don't even know where I'm going to get the cash from (to rebuild)." Across the road stood a supermarket with its windows broken.

Achieng said she might protest on Tuesday, depending on what sort of statement Odinga and his party made. "We need him to speak soon ... there is a lot of anxiety," she said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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