After a long suspense, the results of Kenya’s presidential election held on Tuesday, August 9, were finally declared on Monday, August 15, with Vice President William Ruto, the self-proclaimed “champion of the hustler nation” defeating Raila Odinga, the country’s veteran opposition leader and prime minister from 2009 to 2013, by a narrow margin of 0.5 percent, one that many said was too-close-for comfort. Ruto will be replacing Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been President of Kenya since 2013.
However, just minutes after Ruto was declared the winner by the head of the electoral commission, Wafula Chebukate, the majority of the election commissioners said that they could not stand by the outcome, raising the prospect of uncertainty and instability in East Africa’s biggest economy.
Juliana Cherera, a vice chairwoman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, who spoke on behalf of four of the country’s seven commissioners said that the panel could not take ownership of the results because of what she described as the “opaque nature” of the election’s handling.
Despite the lack of unanimity about the outcome, Ruto celebrated his victory in a speech after the announcement. “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya. I want to thank God for getting us to this point. I want to thank God that today we have concluded this election,” said the 55-year old wealthy businessman and politician.
After Ruto was confirmed as the fifth president in the history of Kenya, he accepted his victory and thanked his supporters with a promise of equity. Minutes after, his supporters took to the streets in the town of Eldoret in celebration. Others, primarily supporters of Mr. Odinga, stormed the streets of Kisumu County in protest, fires blaring over claims that the election may have been rigged.
Born in Rift Valley, a quiet and unpaved town, Ruto grew up tending to cows, mowing lawns, and cultivating crop through the seasons. Throughout his earlier adulthood, he amassed numerous honorary titles in politics, serving as a member of the Kenya Parliament, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister of Higher Education, and Minister of Agriculture. In 2013, he was appointed as the Deputy President by President Kenyatta and worked under him for 9 years until they fell out. Now he will have to accept Ruto as the next President of Kenya.
The August election was expected to be highly competitive with only four presidential candidates on the ballot, the lowest since 1992. The candidates were Deputy President William Ruto of the United Democratic Alliance Party, former prime minister Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, George Wajackoyah of the Roots Party of Kenya, and David Waihiga Mwaure of the Agano Party.
Presidential elections in Kenya have historically been disputed and often marred by political violence and intimidation. Many had said that this year’s election could be indicative of the extent to which political progress has been made in Kenya. Political scientists had even predicted that this was going to be one of the nation’s closest and most highly contested elections. A publicly named “underdog” who comes from a humble background of farmers, Ruto presented himself as an advocate for the poor.