By Sharon Tindyebwa
Uhuru Kenyatta has narrowly won the Kenyan presidential election, avoiding a run-off in April with his main rival Raila Odinga.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission announced Saturday that Kenyatta claimed 50.07 per cent of the vote. Although Odinga has said he will challenge the results in court, the violence that erupted in 2007 following disputed election results has been absent.
Kenyatta remarked on the relative peace during his victory speech.
“Today, we celebrate the triumph of democracy, the triumph of peace, the triumph of nationhood,” Kenyatta said, according to a Time report.
“Despite the misgivings of many in the world, we demonstrated a level of political maturity that surpassed expectations. That is the real victory today. A victory for our nation,” he said.
Odinga said he would fight the results in court, not the streets, and urged his protesters to denounce violence.
“We want to appeal to all Kenyans to respect the rule of law and the Constitution of which they are so proud,” he said in a statement posted on Kenya Today.
“Let the Supreme Court determine whether the result announced by IEBC is a lawful one,” he added.
Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, are facing charges from the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity for their alleged financial support of Kikuyu militants who orchestrated attacks against Luos.
When Kenyatta takes the post, he will be the second sitting president to be facing charges by the International Criminal Court, in addition to Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir.
Political analysts say the ICC charges are likely to have few repercussions at home but may strain Kenya’s relations with the West.
“It probably won’t affect his standing at home very much, especially among his own constituents who resent the intrusion of Europeans into Kenyan politics,” Richard Sandbrook, professor emeritus of political science at University of Toronto, told Humber News.
“As for the West, they will be in a quandary as what to do in this situation, especially the United States that has thought of Kenya as it being its mainstay within the East African context,” he said.
Stuart Hendin, a professor who specializes in international law at the University of Ottawa, said he is not surprised the ICC’s indictment has had little impact on the ground.
“I would suspect the average man on the street…has very little comprehension of the function and purpose of the ICC,” he said.
Before the election, one U.S. official said there would be “consequences” if Kenyatta was elected, according to the Globe and Mail.
Sandbrook said it is unlikely, however, that the U.S. would cut off relations with Kenyatta.
“It will be very uncomfortable, but I imagine under the surface, they will maintain relations with Kenya because they think they need an important bulwark against international terrorism in Eastern Africa.”
Kenyatta has said he will attend his trial scheduled for July 9, as has Ruto whose trial is to begin on May 28. Kenyatta also said his official duties would prevent him from being consistently present at the ICC in Geneva, according to Time, which means the trial may drag on for years.