Following his narrow victory in the most stable democracy in East Africa’s August 9 election, William Ruto was inaugurated as Kenya’s president on Tuesday. He immediately indicated that his administration would be predominantly Christian.
President William Ruto
In a nation with unrest-filled elections, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the official results from losing candidate and longtime opposition leader Raila Odinga this week.
The 55-year-old Ruto served as departing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s deputy, but the two had a contentious breakup that caused them to go months without speaking. Tuesday’s crowd applauded when the two clasped hands once more as Kenyatta turned over the reins of authority.
After the court affirmed his victory, Ruto knelt on the stage for a lengthy speech. He had previously broken down in tears and prayer. The pastor emphasized Ruto’s humble upbringing, saying, “A chicken seller to a president.”
In his speech, Ruto praised the church’s leadership and the Islamic faith and promised that “we will enhance our partnership, build on our collaboration, and enhance our support to them.” His first tweet was a quotation from Psalms, which reads, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
In contrast to the political dynasties represented by Kenyatta and Odinga, Ruto’s campaign painted him as a “hustler” with a lowly upbringing that included selling chickens on the side of the road while wearing no shoes. The wheelbarrow that appears on his presidential flag represents his candidacy.
He declared on Tuesday that “a village child has become the president of Kenya.”
However, Ruto benefited greatly from the political guidance of former President Daniel Arap Moi when he was a young man. Moi presided over a one-party government for many years before Kenyans successfully fought for multiparty elections.
Ruto now talks about democracy and has sworn there won’t be any reprisals for disagreeing opinions. In his speech, he declared, “I will work with all Kenyans, regardless of who they voted for.”
Local broadcasters Ruto had previously accused of bias were forced to use a feed from a South African station in which Kenya’s state broadcaster has a stake due to restrictions on their ability to cover the inauguration.
The celebration got off to a chaotic start. Numerous people were crushed and hurt as they crammed into the crowded stadium. A medic reported that after being pushed, a fence collapsed, injuring roughly 60 persons; however, this figure may increase.
“Some suffered minor injuries, which we had to attend to.” According to doctor Peter Muiruri, most of them were taken directly to Nairobi’s main hospital.
People attempted to avoid security personnel brandishing batons. Others failed. According to a witness, Benson Kimutai, “I tried to get inside and was pummeling by the cops.”
In his speech, Ruto conceded that “obviously, we are living beyond our means,” which will make it difficult for him to carry out the broad campaign promises he made to Kenya’s poor, who he has described as getting by on “stubborn hope.”
As food costs rose, he promised less expensive financing and cheaper fertilizer. He also promised to tackle the drought in Kenya’s north, which raises the risk of famine, and to give the national police financial independence from the executive branch.
Additionally, Ruto requested that Kenyatta continue “chairing negotiations” on the regional crises in the eastern Congo, where there are tensions with Rwanda, and the neighboring Ethiopia, where the government is engaged in conflict with Tigray troops. The new president declared that Kenyatta had consented.
With the change, Kenya’s President is now held by a person who the International Criminal Court has charged. Kenyatta and Ruto were both charged with participating in the deadly post-election violence in 2007, but the accusations were eventually dismissed because of claims of witness intimidation.
In a nation with a history of political violence, the August election was peaceful. Only in the last few seconds, when the electoral commission officially split and major Odinga supporters attempted to block the announcement of Ruto as the victor physically, did chaos break out.
After receiving support from his former competitor Kenyatta before the election, the losing candidate, 77-year-old Odinga, is positioning himself to again be a vocal member of the opposition. He announced his decision to boycott the inauguration in a statement on Monday, adding that he would later “reveal further steps as we endeavor to expand and strengthen our democracy.”
Odinga also stated that “the outcome of the election remains uncertain.” Still, a representative for the candidate told The Associated Press that it was “very improbable” that he would try to run again as the “people’s president” as he did in the wake of the loss in 2017.