Uhuru Kenyatta Elected President of Kenya

Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first president, has been elected president.

Mr. Kenyatta edged off veteran politician and son of Kenya’s frist vice president, Raila Odinga, garnering 50.07% (6.1m) of the total votes cast. Mr. Odinga managed to get 43.28% (5.3m) (compare this with my predictions here).

Slightly more than 12.2 million out of the registered 14.3 turned up to vote. The overall turnout rate was 86%, the highest ever in Kenya’s history.

The tallying of the votes took four days after the electronic tallying system crashed. The IEBC then resorted to a manual tallying system.

Mr. Kenyatta was born in 1961 and attended St. Mary’s School in Nairobi before attending Amherst. He holds a BA in Economics and Political Science.

His family holds vast commercial interests, ranging from agriculture, to manufacturing, to banking. The Kenyatta family is one of the biggest landowners in Kenya. Last year Forbes ranked Mr. Kenyatta as the wealthiest Kenyan, with a worth of over USD 500 million (Forbes later dropped Kenyatta from the list, saying the wealth was family-owned).

In 2001 former president Moi plucked Kenyatta from private life and nominated him to parliament.

Moi then endorsed Kenyatta for president in the 2002 presidential election which he lost by a lanfslide to President Mwai Kibaki.

Mr. Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are facing charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in the 2007/8 post election violence in Kenya.

Back then they were on opposing political camps and allegedly financed rival ethnic militias. Over 1300 were killed and 300,000 displaced.

The ICC cases played a prominent role in the campaigns. Western envoys, overtly and implicity, warned Kenyans against voting for the ICC co-accused. This may have energised the base of the UhuRuto ticket.

However, more than anything else, Kenyatta’s victory was the result of demographic providence and resources.

Kenyans largely voted along ethnic lines. It therefore helped that Kenyatta and Ruto hail from two of the most populous regions in the country. The core of their alliance brought together ethnic groups that together make up 45% of the Kenyan population.

Mr. Kenyatta’s campaign was also super cash rich. Red caps and t-shirts dotted every part of the country, eclipsing Mr. Odinga’s orange movement. Overall the UhuRuto outcampaigned Mr. Odinga’s coalition.

For instance many believe that the duo won the elecction long before voting started by ensuring high voter registration rates in their strongholds – averaging over 87%. Mr. Odinga’s strongholds registered at rates below 78%.

Mr. Kenyatta comes into office at a critical time when Kenya is implementing a system of devolved government. Among the things on his in-tray will be how to tame the country’s debt and expenditure situation while also creating jobs. Security, both internally and regionally, will also be a key concern.

Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto will also have to juggle governing Kenya and attending to their respective ICC cases from July and May respectively. Mr. Kenyatta will be the second serving head of state facing charges at the ICC. The other is Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.

Mr. Kenyatta’s convincing win might just be enough to persuade the UN Security Council to rethink the ICC cases.

Due to Kenya’s geopolitical importance, the West will have no option but to engage with the incoming Kenyatta administration – interests will trump any other consideration.

Complicating the issue (at least from a non-legal perspective) is the fact that the UhuRuto ticket won with over 90% in the very same areas that were worst affected by violence in 2007/8.

Mr. Kenyatta will be sworn in on March 26th.

If Mr. Odinga contests the results, as the New York Times and Reuters seem to suggest he will, Mr. Kenyatta may have to wait until mid April before he is sworn in. Or there might be another election 60 days following the Supreme Court decision, if it is in CORD’s favor.

Many Kenyans dread the prospect of a court challenge, or worse, another election.