“It is clear that the constitutionally sanctioned process of electing a new set of leaders to take us to the next level has been thwarted by another tainted election,” Odinga told reporters. “It is democracy that is on trial.”
This was Kenya’s first election since the disputed 2007 election, when Odinga also declared that he was cheated out of victory, triggering ethnic violence that killed more than 1,000 Kenyans and drove several hundred thousand others from their homes. The mayhem crippled Kenya’s economy and shattered its image as a bulwark of stability in Africa.
Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, reached the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff by winning 6,173,433 votes out of more than 12.3 million cast. Odinga won 5,340,546 votes, 43.3 percent, in an election contested by eight candidates. About 8,000 votes pushed Kenyatta above the 50-percent mark. The turnout, at 86 percent, was the highest ever in Kenya’s history.
Most of the voting predictably went along ethnic lines, with the vast majority of Kikuyus choosing Kenyatta, while Luos cast their ballots for Odinga.
Even if the Supreme Court upholds Kenyatta’s victory, he is expected to face a highly complicated term in office. Both he and running mate William Ruto are accused by the International Criminal Court at The Hague of financing and instigating ethnic mobs who carried out mass killings after the 2007 election. That means both men would have to endure months, if not years, on trial while running the country.
Their trial, originally scheduled for next month, has been postponed to July 9. Both men have denied the allegations and have said they would cooperate with the court to clear their names.
Relationships with key allies and donors could prove to be awkward. The United States and European nations have already warned that there could be consequences if Kenyans chose a leader facing charges by the international court. Some Western diplomats have said they would only have essential discussions with Kenyatta if he were elected.
Yet Kenya is a key ally of the United States and an ancestral home of President Obama. Kenya has played an important role in the fight against Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militia. Kenya’s economic stability is also vital to the region’s and the continent’s growth.
On Saturday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry congratulated Kenya on holding peaceful elections and urged all the political parties “to peacefully address any disputes” through the courts, “rather than on the streets.” Noticeably, Kerry did not once mention Kenyatta.