Kenya’s Kenyatta, Facing ICC Charges, Wins Presidential Vote
Uhuru Kenyatta, who is preparing for trial at the International Criminal Court, won Kenya’s presidential election as his main rival rejected the result and said he would go to court to have it overturned.
The son of Kenya’s first post-independence president, Jomo Kenyatta, took 50.07 percent of ballots in the March 4 vote, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Issack Hassan said today in the capital, Nairobi. Outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whose dispute of the results of elections in 2007 triggered two months of ethnic clashes, got 43.3 percent in a process he said was “tainted.”
“We will therefore shortly move to court to challenge the outcome,” Odinga told reporters, while urging his supporters to abide by the rule of law. “Any violence now could destroy this nation forever. It will not serve anyone’s interest.”
By electing Kenyatta, 51, Kenya becomes the second nation to have a sitting president facing indictment by the ICC. Sudan’s Umar al-Bashir has refused to cooperate with the court in The Hague and a warrant has been issued for his arrest on charges of genocide and war crimes in the western region of Darfur.
“It will make international relations and investment complicated, and raise concerns by the West who rely on Kenya as an ally in the war on terror,” Shilan Shah, Africa economist at London-based research company Capital Economics, said in a phone interview before the results were announced.
Kenyatta and Vice President-elect William Ruto, 46, are accused by the ICC of masterminding clashes after the last election, in 2007, that left more than 1,100 people dead and forced another 350,000 to flee their homes. Kenyatta and Ruto deny the charges and have said they can fight the ICC case and still perform their presidential duties.
The U.K. and European Union have policies that limit contact with ICC indictees to essential matters, while U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, in a media conference call last month, warned Kenyan voters that “choices have consequences.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today congratulated “all those elected to office” without naming Kenyatta and urged all parties and their supporters to address any disputes peacefully. Similar statements from the EU and the U.K. also didn’t identify the president-elect by name.
For the United Nations, the U.K. and the U.S., their diplomatic missions in Nairobi are a major presence for each in Africa. Kenyan troops are part of a UN-backed peacekeeping mission in Somalia, where they’re helping the government drive out al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Kenya will continue to “recognize and respect our international obligations and we will continue to cooperate with all nations and international institutions,” Kenyatta said in his acceptance speech. “We also expect that the international community will respect our sovereignty and the democratic will of the people of Kenya.” Turnout in the election was a record 86 percent, according to the commission.
Odinga, 68, who has been defeated twice before, claimed he was cheated of the win in the last election by President Mwai Kibaki, sparking two months of clashes. The violence led to an 8.5 percent decline in the Kenyan shilling against the dollar and slowed economic growth by two-thirds to 1.5 percent in 2008.
In this election, Odinga said the process was marred by tampering with the voter register and the fact that his political party agents had been expelled from the national tallying center so they couldn’t verify results. Ballots exceeded the number of registered voters in some places, he said. Kenyatta avoided a runoff election by securing more than 50 percent plus one vote.
Kenya is the regional hub for companies including General Electric Co. (GE), PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) and Nestle SA (NESN) and its stock exchange is attracting increasing interest from outside investors. Foreign participation accounted for about half of all share trading last year from 10 percent five years earlier.
Kenya’s economy may expand by as much as 6 percent this year, from an estimated 5 percent in 2012, provided that no serious violence follows the elections, according to the International Monetary Fund. The shilling closed unchanged yesterday at 86.25 per dollar, while the Nairobi All Share Index extended gains for an eighth session, bringing its advance since Feb. 26 to 6.6 percent. The bourse is sub-Saharan Africa’s second-best performer this year, after Ghana.
“If you look at the Kenyan shilling and the stock market, it has performed very well even as the early results showed Kenyatta winning, which is an indication of what the business community thinks if Kenyatta wins,” Dismas Mokua, vice president at Sadiki East Africa, a political-risk advisory group, said by phone today. “At all times he has said he will cooperate with the ICC and that gives people assurance.”
The ICC this week granted a request by Kenyatta to delay the start date of his trial by three months to July 9 and Ruto’s by one month to May 28.
Kenyatta, the former finance minister, pledged in his campaign to boost economic growth to between 7 percent and 10 percent a year by 2015 to help create a million jobs annually. He has plans to ensure a crude pipeline is built from oil-rich, neighboring South Sudan to Kenya’s coast, where a refinery will be constructed.
He also promised to lay down a railway from the port of Mombasa to Malaba at the Ugandan border to boost the shipment of goods by rail to 50 percent of the total from the current 5 percent, and more than double the amount of paved roads to 24,000 kilometers (14,900 miles) during his five-year term.
The Kenyatta family’s holdings include land as well as Brookside Dairy Ltd., which also has units in Tanzania and Uganda, and stakes in other companies including K24 television and Commercial Bank of Africa Ltd., according to Forbes magazine.
Kenyatta lost his bid for the presidency in 2002 to Kibaki, who is stepping down after two terms in office. His given name, Uhuru, means freedom in the Swahili language. He is married with three children.
Kenyatta’s supporters have depicted the ICC charges against him as an attempt by the West to intervene in Kenya’s internal affairs, Gerrishon Ikiara, associate director at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies at the University of Nairobi, said by phone today.
“Kenyatta has said he will cooperate from the beginning and use the legal channels and he’s no comparison to Bashir on that front,” said Ikiara. “Kenyatta has been a minister for finance and he knows the importance of the international community so I don’t think he can antagonize the community.”
The presidential inauguration is scheduled for March 26, depending on the outcome of any court challenge brought by Odinga or other parties.
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