Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed as Kenya's next president


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The Independent Online

Uhuru Kenyatta was confirmed as Kenya’s next president following a ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court. The highly anticipated announcement comes after weeks of uncertainty surrounding the elections on 4 March. Initial tallies had placed Mr Kenyatta with 50.07 per cent of the vote, breaking the necessary 50 per cent mark to avoid a run-off by a hair-thin margin of just 8,000 votes. Raila Odinga, the current Prime Minister and Mr Kenyatta’s main opponent, brought the result to court over allegations of fraud and misconduct.

Both politicians agreed to accept the Court’s decision pre-emptively last week, assuaging fears that widespread violence might erupt should the verdict be challenged. As of late tonight, all reports of unrest appeared to be subdued. Reuters news agency reported that hundreds of youths rioting in Kisumu, Mr Odinga’s home city, were met with warning shots and teargas by police. Mr Odinga’s accepting defeat shortly after the court’s decision helped pacify the conflict.

According to the Associated Press, Mr Odinga announced his concession at a news conference. “The court has now spoken,” Mr Odingal said, “I wish the president-elect, honourable Uhuru Kenyatta, and his team well.”

Mr Kenyatta will now be sworn in as Kenya’s fourth president on April 9th, despite facing an on-going investigation by the International Criminal Court. Mr Kenyatta and his Deputy President-Elect, William Ruto, face charges relating to the bloody aftermath of Kenya’s last presidential elections. They are scheduled to stand trial at The Hague in July and late May, respectively.

The United States and European Union have stated separately that each will maintain only limited relations with an incumbent leader facing criminal convictions. Mr Kenyatta has said he plans to perform his new role while standing trial, using video-conferencing if necessary.

The decision, issued by the six justices on Kenya’s Supreme Court, quelled much of the angst surrounding what was a prolonged and troubled process to decide the election’s final tally.

“My Almighty make my tasks easy,” Chief Justice Willy Mutunga pleaded on his Twitter feed the week of the initial vote.

New biometric voter-ID systems were issued throughout the country to all 33,400 voting stations; many of these stations, however, including schools in rural villages, lacked electrical-sockets for the systems to operate.

Furthermore, election officials were required to use manual voter rolls after a program intended to reduce voter fraud failed. Many officials had to drive or fly by helicopter hundreds of kilometres to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to deliver the results for verification.

The Supreme Court’s decision came after continuous delays over the past weeks. Concerns were raised over discrepancies in the number of votes cast, which in some cases, it was claimed, outnumbered the total number of registered voters. Also raised were questions of whether invalid ballots, for instance those mistakenly placed in the parliamentary rather than presidential box, should be counted.

Mr Odinga argued that these issues could swing the election; Mr Kenyatta claimed that any inconsistencies were innocent errors and that the number of invalid ballots was insignificant.

A report was issued by the Supreme Court after an audit discovered inconsistencies in partial recounts from 5 of 22 polling stations. Mr Odinga, represented by his lawyer, George Oraro, stressed in a hearing on Friday that those results should be nullified.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga reiterated that the court was impartial and must be trusted to do its job before the court’s final ruling confirmed that Mr. Kenyatta had been “validly elected.”

The office of British Prime Minister, David Cameron, “urged the Kenyan people to be proud of the strong signal they have sent to the world about their determination to exercise their democratic right peacefully,“ in an official statement issued on the matter.

Kenya’s current president, Mwai Kibaki, refused to accept the court ruling that his election was invalid in 2007, resulting in riots that left between 1,200 and 1,400 people dead, according to some estimates. Mr Kenyatta supported Mwai Kibaki (though he had lost to Mr Kibaki in a 2002 presidential race) fuelling a political battle that split Kenyans along tribal lines.

A new constitution adopted in 2010 helped bring much needed reforms; Amnesty International, however, in a report titled Police Reform in Kenya: “A Drop in the Ocean,” raised concerns that faults in the Kenyan police force, which had allowed the 2008 events to reach such tragic proportions, were still unresolved before this election.

The report concluded, “There is much work to be done to implement reforms in the police, both before and immediately after the elections.”

While there remains criticism over Mr Kenyatta’s election, particularly with his pending indictment by the International Criminal Court, the endemic violence of 2007 and 2008 so far has been avoided.

In what appears to be an incident unrelated to the elections, a Muslim gang of fifty activists, calling themselves the Mombasa Republic Council (MRC), raided a casino in the coastal town of Malindi on Saturday. Six of the group were reportedly killed by police, and at least one police officer died. The group claims to be working on behalf of Muslims in the region that are being discriminated.