Kenya calm a day after chaotic presidential declaration

NAIROBI: Kenya calmed down on Tuesday, a day after Vice President William Ruto was declared the winner of the narrow presidential election against longtime opposition figure Raila Odinga – a closely watched vote in the East African country has important implications for the region’s stability.
There were protests by Odinga supporters in several cities on Monday night after chaos surrounding the announcement as a majority of election commissioners deemed the process “unclear”. Those commissioners, appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta last year, gave no details of their sudden outcry following an election widely considered the most transparent ever in Kenya.
Odinga, 77, who has pursued the presidency for a quarter of a century, has yet to make a statement or appear in public. His campaign has signaled it could challenge the election results in court and has seven days after announcing it did so. The Supreme Court then there will be 14 days to make a decision.
The chairman of the electoral commission said Ruto won with nearly 50.5% of the vote while Odinga received almost 49%. On Tuesday, the local Election Watch Group announced that its highly regarded parallel tally “confirms the official results” in a critical test of the process.
“We have made strides towards credible elections,” the group said. It called the split in the election commission “regrettable” but noted that the chairman is the one who is constitutionally charged with publishing the results.
Odinga’s campaign was expected to win after the outgoing president in a political turn favored his old rival Odinga over his own vice president. In the minutes leading up to the announcement, Kenyans were shocked to see shouting Odinga supporters, including newly elected members of Parliament, scuffle with pre-election commission officials. when the police recovered their composure.
Ruto, 55, appealed to Kenyans by making an election about economic differences rather than ethnicity that has long marked the country’s politics with sometimes deadly results. He portrayed himself as a pagan from humble beginnings challenging the political dynasties of Kenyatta and Odinga, whose father was Kenya’s first president and vice president.
However, turnout in last Tuesday’s vote fell to 65% as Kenyans across the country of 65 million expressed frustration and lack of confidence that the candidates will address the problems of rising prices, high unemployment and widespread corruption. The now wealthy Ruto himself has faced and denied numerous allegations of land grabs and other grafts.
In the quiet capital, Nairobi, on Tuesday, motorcyclist Distrious Mirimo found some businesses still closed. “Those who have closed are scared but I urge them to open up because nothing has happened,” he said. “The president has been chosen and we have to accept the results.”
As more and more African leaders issued statements congratulating Ruto, Kenya’s outgoing president remained silent.

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