Kenya’s elections chief declared Deputy President William Ruto the winner of a tight presidential race on Monday but some senior election officials disowned the result, fueling fears of widespread violence like that seen after previous disputed polls.
Hailing the electoral commission as “heroes” after he was declared the winner, Ruto said: “There is no looking back. We are looking to the future. We need all hands on deck to move forward.”
The 55-year-old had made Kenya’s class divisions the centrepiece of his campaign to become Kenya’s fifth president, promising to reward low-income “hustlers.”
He was also scornful of Kenya’s political dynasties – his opponent Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the nation’s first vice president and president, respectively. Kenyatta, who has served his two-term limit as president, fell out with Ruto after the last election and this time endorsed Odinga, making his fifth attempt at winning the presidency.
Once in office, Ruto will have to confront an economic and social crisis in East Africa’s most advanced economy, where poor Kenyans already reeling from the impact of COVID-19 have been hit by global rises in food and fuel prices.
The worst drought for 40 years has devastated the country’s north, leaving 4.1 million people dependent on food aid, while its debt levels have soared.
Ruto, who heads the Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) Alliance, had appeared to be leading opposition leader Odinga as Kenyans awaited final results of the election held nearly a week ago.
Minutes before the chairman of the electoral commission Wafula Chebukati announced that Ruto had won, his deputy Juliana Cherera had told media at a separate location that she and three other commissioners disowned the results.