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Despite the chaos and a physical attack on Kenya’s top electoral official, the country’s electoral commission has announced that Vice President William Ruto will be the East African nation’s fifth president.
In an election marked by high drama and shifting alliances, Ruto triumphed over Raila Odinga, Kenya’s longtime opposition leader, who had forged an alliance with outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta that supporters said guaranteed him the presidency.
But after six days of counting and just as the electoral commission was set to announce the final count on Monday, four of the seven electoral commissioners walked out of the main counting center in Nairobi, saying they could not support the final result because of the ” opaque nature” of the vote count.
Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati took the stage anyway and chaos ensued. He was attacked by a senator. Others jumped onto the stage, tore up banners, overturned the lectern and attacked the remaining election commissioners.
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Two of them were injured, but Chebukati returned to the stage once more and declared that Ruto had narrowly won with 50.49% of the vote to Odinga’s 48.85%.
“We have a constitutional duty to fulfill,” he said. “That is why I stand before you today despite the intimidation and harassment. I took an oath to serve this country and have done my duty in accordance with the constitution and laws of the country.”
Kenya is a model of democracy in East Africa, a region where authoritarianism has been on the rise. These elections were hailed as a step forward for Kenya’s democracy because the campaign was marked by political maturity. Politicians focused on economic issues, rather than the tribal mobilization that has been a feature of every Kenyan election since independence.
And these elections also began as the most transparent in the country’s history. Just hours after voting ended, the electoral commission began publishing raw voting data from more than 46,000 polling stations. That meant that anyone could count the votes and check the math of the electoral commission.
In his first speech as president-elect, Ruto spoke of reconciliation. He said that he would not seek revenge against his political opponents and called on Kenyans to work together.
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“I want to promise the people of Kenya that I will have a democratic government and I will work with the opposition as long as they monitor the government,” Ruto said.
But throughout the capital city, scenes of celebration were mixed with anger. In the city’s two largest slums, Mathare and Kibera, the protests turned violent. In Mathare, a woman died after a crowd threw stones at her car and it overturned.
In Kibera, protesters set fires in the middle of the streets and mobs destroyed roadside shops.
“We are angry,” said Jared Ochieng, 55, as he watched the flames from afar. “This is not what we expected. Now what can help Kenya is to go to another election.”
Odinga, the leader of the opposition, did not appear in public, but his running mate, Martha Karua, tweeted“It’s not over until it’s over.”
Odinga now has seven days to file an appeal with the country’s constitutional court.