Renewed protests erupted in parts of Kenya on Monday night after Uhuru Kenyatta was declared president of a bitterly divided nation for the second time in three months.
Claiming a resounding mandate to serve a second five-year term, Mr Kenyatta accepted victory after securing 98 per cent of the vote in an election boycotted by his rival Raila Odinga.
But with just 38.8 per cent of voters choosing to participate in the election, Mr Kenyatta faces a struggle to assert his authority and legitimacy over a fractured country increasingly polarised on ethnic lines.
Dozens of people have been killed in electoral violence over the past three months and, even as government supporters held muted celebrations, rioting broke out in Nairobi’s slums, while protesters also gathered in Mr Odinga’s strongholds in western Kenya.
The president also knows from experience that being declared winner of an election does not guarantee assuming office. His victory in August was overturned by the supreme court, which found “illegalities and irregularities” in the way the vote was counted.
A new challenge seems highly likely, given that the constitution requires a presidential election to be held in all 290 of Kenya’s constituencies. Voting was abandoned in 25 western counties without a ballot being cast after security forces clashed with opposition supporters trying to prevent polling stations opening.
Given Mr Odinga’s refusal to participate in the court-ordered rerun, claiming that a failure to enact reforms meant the second election would be no fairer than the first, the president’s victory looks more likely to worsen Kenya’s political crisis than resolve it.
Mr Odinga, who has promised to lead a peaceful campaign of civil disobedience and national resistance, is expected to speak to his supporters on Tuesday.
Western diplomats, church leaders and human rights activists have warned that Kenya, which witnessed more than 1,300 deaths after a disputed election in 2007, risks sustained violence unless the president and his rival negotiate a way out of the impasse.
Rory Stewart, the Africa minister, yesterday called for “transparent national dialogue”, saying he was “deeply concerned by outbreaks of ethnic and political violence”.
President Kenyatta’s acceptance speech was, however, notably light on conciliatory language, saying he would only countenance talks with Mr Odinga once any legal challenges to his victory had been addressed.
Instead, the president excoriated his rival for refusing to participate in an election he had gone to court to secure.
“You cannot choose for the opportunity to exercise a right and thereafter abscond from the consequences of that choice,” Mr Kenyatta said.
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