Kenya’s Kenyatta to be sworn in after contentious vote

Uhuru Kenyatta is being sworn in for a second term as Kenya’s president on Tuesday, bringing to a close the protracted electoral saga that has gripped the country in recent months.

Thousands of supporters and dignitaries packed into Nairobi’s Kasarani stadium, while outside Kenyan police fired tear gas at some who tried to force their way in, local media reported.

This year’s leadership contest has been rife with controversy amid allegations of vote tampering, an unprecedented high court ruling which nullified the initial vote and sporadic bouts of violence in opposition strongholds.

Kenya’s Supreme Court ruled last Monday that the October 26 presidential do-over met all the constitutional requirements, paving the way for Kenyatta to take the presidential oath of office again. The opposition rejected the ruling, saying it was made “under duress.”

Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga had boycotted the October rerun, saying it would be unfair because the election commission had failed to implement reforms. Kenyatta won with 98% of the vote.

Kenyatta’s first task: Unify the country

As the largest economy in East Africa, Kenya is a crucial trade route to the continent and has provided an important buffer of stability in the region.

The presidential race — and subsequent election-related violence — has thrown east Africa’s wealthiest country into political chaos, revealing deep ethnic divisions which Kenyatta will need to address quickly upon re-taking office.

Kenyatta is a member of the country’s largest community, the Kikuyu, originating in the country’s central highlands. The Kikuyu have long been accused of wielding strong economic and political power in the country. Odinga is part of the Luo community, which some say has become increasingly marginalized in recent years.

Kenyan police have confirmed at least 14 deaths in the lead up to last week’s Supreme Court ruling, though the opposition disputes this figure.

According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in October, up to 67 people could have been killed nationwide in election-related violence between the initial vote in August and mid-September.

On Sunday, Kenyatta urged the country’s politicians to put aside their differences to build a stronger Kenya as he embarks on a second term.

“Within the political world, it is normal to have political differences but that does not mean we can’t co-exist and live together in peace,” President Kenyatta said at a thanksgiving church service on Sunday.

“Like in any competition, there will be winners and losers but in terms of the election we are all winners as Kenyans. Our responsibility after the political competition is to come together and work to build the nation,” Kenyatta continued.

Speaking at the same event, Deputy President William Ruto called upon Kenyans to reject those spreading hate and division.

“Let us all resolve that we will refuse hate, resist negative ethnicity and reject divisive politics so that we can live together as one people — the people of the great nation of Kenya,” Ruto said.

Opposition call for inauguration boycott

Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA) opposition party called for supporters to snub inaugural celebrations and, instead, attend memorial services for “victims of police brutality and extrajudicial killings.”

But police in Nairobi said Saturday authorities had not yet received notice for any simultaneous public gatherings organized by the opposition party.

Nairobi Police boss Japheth Koome told local reporters that mass assembly is not allowed without prior approval, warning those that try they will be subject to legal repercussions.