Kenya braced on Tuesday for a protracted legal battle after William Ruto was declared the victor in a closely fought presidential race over the objections of more than half the electoral commission, stoking fears of political violence.
In the western city of Kisumu and Nairobi’s huge Kibera slum, both strongholds of rival candidate Raila Odinga, calm returned to the streets after protesters battled police and burned tyres on the road overnight.
The dramatic events of Monday, which saw Ruto declared president by a tiny margin as a split emerged in the electoral commission overseeing the Aug. 9 vote, has raised fears of bloody violence like that seen after previous disputed polls.
Odinga supporters have denounced Monday’s result although Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o called for calm as protests in parts of the lakeside town turned violent after Ruto’s victory was declared.
Makau Mutua, the head of Odinga’s campaign think-tank, said officials of his Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) Alliance were discussing a course of action.
“We are consulting among ourselves,” Mutua told Reuters by phone. “It is a top line issue … all options are on the table. No option has been ruled out at this moment.”
He said the message sent by the four commissioners who disowned the results, was that “the chair of the commission does not have the authority to decide unilaterally the final results of the election”.
Neither the chairman of the electoral commission, Wafula Chebukati, who declared Ruto the winner with 50.49% of the vote against Odinga’s 48.5%, nor the four commissioners who disowned the results responded to a Reuters request for comment.
Ruto, the current deputy president and head of the Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) Alliance, had appeared to be leading Odinga as Kenyans awaited final results of the election.
Once in office, he will have to confront an economic and social crisis. Poor Kenyans already reeling from the impact of COVID-19 have been hit by global rises in food and fuel prices while a devastating drought in the north has left 4.1 million people dependent on food aid.
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.”
In Kisumu, the mood was subdued, with many shops shuttered and roads dotted with large stones and marks from burned tyres.
Some residents said they were waiting for Odinga’s signal.#
Nancy Achieng arrived on Tuesday morning to find the wooden stall from which she sold foods at the side of the road in the Kondele neighbourhood destroyed.
“I’ve lost the election and I’ve also lost my business,” said Achieng, who had been selling beans, chapati and roasted maize there for two years. “I don’t even know where I’m going to get the cash from (to rebuild).”