Kenya’s deputy president William Samoei Ruto has been declared the winner of the country’s presidential elections, amid some scuffles and drama at the main tallying centre.
The electoral commission said Ruto has narrowly beaten his main challenger, 77-year-old Raila Amollo Odinga, after garnering 50.5 per cent of the votes cast. The announcement had been delayed for hours, with Odinga agents claiming the vote had been rigged. Four commissioners out of seven had said the result was opaque and refused to endorse it.
In an acceptance speech, Ruto said he would not seek revenge.
“I want to promise Kenyans that I will run a democratic government and work with all people. We will serve Kenyans equally whether they voted for us or not ,” said the 55-year-old leader, as his win triggered celebrations in strongholds and some protests in Odinga’s strongholds.
After the peaceful voting, Catholic bishops had continued to urge calm, as tensions grew in the wait for the presidential results.
The country has remained largely calm, but anxious, with Catholic bishops joining with protestant and evangelical church leaders urging peace, patience and trust.
“We thank you Kenyans for praying for the country and coming out to vote peacefully,” said Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde, the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops in statements called the Bishops’ Voice. “We are very hopeful that we will continue enjoying peace even as we conclude the verification and tallying of the presidential election and even after the announcement of the results.”
The Kenya Independent Electoral Commission (the IEBC) had until Tuesday 16 August to complete the process.
Ruto is the leader of Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) alliance and Odinga, a former prime minister, is the leader of Azimio la Umoja (Resolution of Unity) alliance.
Tensions became visible on Saturday, when one of the party agents described the main tallying centre as a “crime scene”. That triggered a scuffle and alarm across the country.
“The palpable anxiety building due to the long time it is taking to complete the presidential vote tallying could generate unnecessary tensions, rumours and hard feelings among Kenyans. We understand the need for IEBC to be thorough in ensuring the process is credible,” said Musonde, while urging the commission to do what it takes to complete the process.
Millions of Kenyans on 9 August cast ballots to elect a president, national assembly, county governors and assemblies. The election – largely described as calm and peaceful by observers – saw nearly 14 million people or about 64 per cent of the registered voters cast ballots.
The bishops have reminded Kenyans that there can only be one presidential winner, urging those who lose to seek redress and justice through the courts if they are aggrieved.