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Final Kenyan vote count gives Kenyatta slim victory

© Denis Bouclon

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2013-03-10

Uhuru Kenyatta has been declared the winner of Kenya's presidential vote, the election commission announced Saturday. Kenyatta took 50.07% of the vote, enough to avoid a run-off against rival Raila Odinga, who says he will challenge the results.

After four days of frayed nerves, delays, vote recounts, mounting suspicions and deep uncertainties, Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of Kenya’s 2013 presidential race on Saturday.

But the announcement failed to bring closure as Kenyatta’s main rival, Raila Odinga, said he would mount a legal challenge to what he called “a tainted election”.

Announcing the final results on Saturday, Issack Hassan, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said Kenyatta had won 50.07% of the March 4 poll, which saw a massive voter turnout of 86%. With Kenyatta narrowly avoiding a runoff, Hassan went on to announce, "I therefore declare Uhuru Kenyatta the duly elected president of the Republic of Kenya."

In his statement delivered shortly after the victory declaration, Kenyatta reached out to his opponents and said they should “all join hands to build a better Kenya”.

But even as Kenyatta’s supporters greeted the announcement with renewed celebrations - which broke out before dawn when he inched past the 50% mark - Odinga’s campaign was gathering for a press conference on the other side of town.

Shortly after the final results were declared, Odinga said he would challenge the results in the country’s Supreme Court. “It is democracy that is on trial,” said Odinga, noting that his campaign had filed “several complaints” of “massive discrepancies” with the IEBC.

Odinga ended his statement by calling for calm and noted that “any violence now could destroy this nation forever”.

His call appeared to be largely heard across a country determined not to repeat the post-electoral bloodbath that gripped the East African nation following the disputed 2007 poll, which killed more than 1,000 people and displaced over 600,000 others.

Kenyatta himself faces crimes of humanity charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in orchestrating the violence following the disputed December 2007 election.

His running mate, William Ruto, also faces crimes of humanity charges at The Hague. Both men are set to go on trial later this year, putting Kenya in a dubiously historic position as the world’s first nation with a sitting head-of-state commuting back and forth from The Hague.

“In a cynical, superficial way, we can say thank you to the ICC that Kenyatta and Ruto got elected” said Horn of Africa analyst Abdullahi Halakhe.

Why Odinga will challenge the result

“They used the ICC trial to their advantage on the campaign trail by playing the nationalist card – and it worked.”

At the Kaskazinee Bar in Kikuyu, the jubilant atmosphere turned boisterous as out-of-towners entered the premises.

“Tell Europe to go to hell. We will do business with China,” said a man who identified himself as Karioki, but declined to provide his full name. “They’re saying we voted for suspects. If Uhuru is a criminal, all Kenyans are criminals.”

Odinga to contest final results

A member of the dominant Kikuyu tribe, Kenyatta beat Odinga, a Luo, winning a slim 50.07% of the more than 12 million votes cast.

Kenyatta’s win marked a continuation of the status quo in Kenya, an East African nation that has never seen a military coup, army rule, revolution or sweeping nationalisation of resources that many post-colonial African countries have experienced.

In its 50-year history, Kenya has had four presidents, three of them Kikuyus and none from Odinga’s Luo tribe.

Kenyatta’s slim victory over Odinga in a deeply divided nation is almost certainly going to be challenged in the courts, raising the prospect of continuing ethnic tensions in a nation that erupted around ethnic fault lines in the last election.

Jubilation in Kikuyu, ‘mourning’ in Luo areas

But in the heartland of Kenyatta’s support, the domestic fallout and the international diplomatic implications of his win were cast aside in a joyous eruption of celebrations.

Robinson Njogu Mwaura woke up around 3 am in his village near Kikuyu to the sound of people celebrating, vuvuzelas blasting and cars honking.

“I’m jubilant,” he said, in a play on Kenyatta’s Jubilee Coalition. “There’s a lot of happiness in my heart. I knew Uhuru [Kenyatta] would win, but I feared a runoff. Now I’m happy that people can get on with their lives and can build the country.”

But in the Luo-dominated pockets of Kenya, there was little sign of a nation ready to unite.

In the sprawling Nairobi slum of Kibera, a Luo stronghold, tensions have been building over the past few days as Kenyatta kept a steady, but knife-edged lead over Odinga during the long vote-counting process.

Kibera saw some of the worst violence following the disputed 2007 polls, when the incumbent and now outgoing President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over Odinga.

As violence engulfed the nation, Odinga was made prime minister in a peace deal mediated by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

On Friday evening, as truckloads of special police units drove through the main street of the slum, keeping a vary eye on the residents, dozens of people gathered around the Les Meq Presitigious Hoteli, a one-room store where a single television set blasted out election coverage.

“I’m in mourning,” said George, a 43-year-old clerk who did not wish to provide his full name. “I have a TV at home. But I came to watch it here with my friends because when you are in mourning, you have to be with your friends.”

As a sullen crowd looked on at the entrance to the packed room, George shook his head in despair. “We never wanted this regime for long. We needed a change. Now, there’s no change,” he said.

But if George was resigned, at a nearby liquor den, the atmosphere bristled with tensions.

“We won’t accept it,” shouted a young woman who refused to provide her name. “No Raila, no peace.”

Sitting on the ledge of the ramshackle liquor den, sipping a glass of changaa - a potent, homemade alcoholic brew that literally means “kill me quick” – Ariba Nicholas, a jobless 40-year-old, nodded quietly.

“The Kikuyus want everything,” said Nicholas. “They think they are supposed to be the leaders. When you go to town, every building is for the Kikuyus, every vehicle is for the Kikuyus. They want everything and we don’t like it,” said Nicholas.

While the rhetoric in the changaa den may be stark, analysts offer the same discourse in more measured tones.

“The Kikuyus think they are supposed to be the leaders and that does not bode well for national unity,” said Halakhe. “Being in power is an opportunity to be involved in high-level corruption and means maintaining resources, and it becomes a vicious circle. The new president should make it his objective to be healer-in-chief,” he noted before adding, “But that is unlikely to happen.”
 

Date created : 2013-03-09

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