Kenya election scandal: Ruto declared president, riots in polling place

Kenya election scandal: Ruto declared president, riots in polling place

The chairman of the electoral commission declares the former vice president, William Ruto, as the narrow winner of the presidential election. The deputy doubts the result. There were riots and warning shots.

Six days after Kenya’s presidential election, the electoral commission declared Vice President William Ruto the winner on Monday. According to Independent Electoral Commission chief Wafula Chebukati, Ruto won with 50.5 percent of the vote, just ahead of opposition leader Raila Odinga with 48.9 percent. However, shortly before the official announcement, four of the seven members of the electoral commission distanced themselves from the election results, and there were violent protests.

“We cannot take any responsibility for the result,” said the vice president of the electoral commission, Juliana Cherera, on behalf of three other colleagues. As a reason, she referred to an “opaque” process, but initially gave no details.

More information will be released later, Cherera said, urging the people of Kenya to “calm down”. The head of the electoral commission, Chebukati, assured that he fulfilled his duties under applicable law, despite “intimidation and harassment”.

Odinga initially did not comment on the official election result. Protests erupted in a slum in the capital Nairobi, where the 77-year-old opposition leader has strong support. The police fired shots with live ammunition. In the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, police used tear gas against protesters who threw stones and blocked roads.

“We were tricked,” said 24-year-old protester Isaac Onyango. The election must be repeated and Odinga must become president. “We will continue to protest until the Supreme Court of Kenya hears us.”

Extremely tense atmosphere

The climate in the East African country is extremely tense. Every election since 2002 has been controversial, and the reputation of the electoral commission has also suffered. In 2007 and 2008, in particular, post-election violence erupted. More than 1,100 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

In the August 9 election, it was already clear in advance that it would result in a duel between Ruto and Odinga. During the election campaign, the two rivals promised to respect the result of a free and transparent vote and to take any doubts to justice and not to use violence in the streets.

After the election results were announced, Ruto announced that he would work with “all” major politicians. “There is no place for revenge,” Ruto said, adding, “I am very aware that our country is at a point where we need all hands on deck.” Kenya, with around 50 million people, suffers from rising cost of living, drought and rampant corruption.

If Odinga does go to court against the official election result, it would be many weeks before President Uhuru Kenyatta’s successor, who has not been allowed to run again after two terms, takes office.

Objections to the election result must be submitted to the Supreme Court within seven days. The court must then decide within two weeks, a possible repeat of the election would have to take place within 60 days. In 2017, after an objection by Odinga, the Supreme Court ordered a repeat of the presidential election. Incumbent Kenyatta emerged victorious again.