Kenyans were hit hard both economically and through healthcare by the pandemic. So when it came to the country’s recent presidential election, it was between William Ruto, who ran as an outsider despite having been the deputy president for the past decade, and Raila Odinga, the country’s former prime minister and member of the Odinga family dynasty who was running for the fifth time.
But, in a surprise victory, Ruto won the election with 50.5% of the vote, beating out Odinga with just enough margin to avoid a runoff election. The win was quickly followed by election skepticism, though, with Odinga’s campaign making allegations of vote-rigging and four of the seven members of the country’s electoral commission refusing to endorse the results, saying they were “opaque.”
These kinds of claims aren’t new in Kenya, but they have led to dangerous protests in the past. In 2007, at least 1,200 people were killed after similar claims of a rigged election. Still, Ruto said he plans to look forward, not backward, and move into the future.
“It is a wonderful evening… all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya,” said Ruto in his acceptance speech, saying that he wanted to be a president for all Kenyans. “To those who have done many things against us, I want to tell them there’s nothing to fear. There will be no vengeance. We do not have the luxury to look back.”
“This was the most mismanaged election in Kenya’s history,” said Odinga’s head electoral agent, calling a counting center in Nairobi a “crime scene” and saying that the people in charge of counting the vote “ought to be arrested.”
“We have walked the journey of ensuring that Kenyans get a free, fair and credible election. It has not been an easy journey – right now two of my commissioners and the CEO are injured,” said Electoral Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati.
“We applaud the efforts of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, security forces, and all electoral institutions to organize a peaceful and orderly voting and counting process,” said a statement from the US Embassy in Kenya. “Going forward, we urge all parties to work together to peacefully resolve any remaining concerns about this election through existing dispute resolution mechanisms. We ask all political party leaders to continue to urge their supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from violence during the electoral process.”