EDITORIAL: Kenya faces uncertain future
Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father, was named the winner of the country’s presidential election with 50.07 per cent of the vote last Saturday.
He has the name, the wealth – and the burden that comes with his heritage.
Unlike the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru faces indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity committed after the previous elections in 2007, which left more than 1 000 people dead.
It is going to very interesting to see how he is going to govern, given this indictment, and whether he will surrender to the jurisdiction of this court. He will become the second president in Africa to be indicted by the ICC – after Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who continues in office.
Many thought the ICC charges – which Kenyatta denies – would destroy his bid for the presidency. Now that he has won, it seems the ICC charges only helped to galvanize his support and his running mate, William Ruto, with some alleging foreign interference.
Kenyatta’s victory has made history as he will be sworn in as Kenya’s youngest president, following in his father’s footsteps. The United States, Britain and the European Union gave a chilly reception to his presidency, making it clear he would not be welcome.
He rise to the presidency was helped in part by luck as well as tribal rivalries. In July 1990, together with four other sons of prominent politicians, Kenyatta issued a statement urging the then-ruling party, Kenya African National Unity (KANU), to open up the political space.
Many in Kenya thought such a move would draw the wrath of then-President Daniel Arap Moi. Instead, he brought young Kenyatta closer to him and guided him into politics. In 2002, the outgoing president anointed him as his successor on a KANU ticket.
The decision was roundly condemned and it resulted in a number of key members of KANU such as Raila Odinga and then Vice-President George Saitoti resigning from the party and moving away from Moi’s “Uhuru Project”.
President Moi’s plan ultimately backfired and Kenyatta lost to President Mwai Kibaki, who benefited from Odinga’s support. During the 2007 elections Kenyatta supported President Kibaki’s bid for a second term against Odinga.
The controversy and violence following the 2007 elections forced Kibaki and Odinga to form a coalition government after prolonged violence and the intervention of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and others.
Ominously, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has refused to concede defeat in a razor-thin election, saying the voting process experienced multiple failures as he announced plans to petition the Supreme Court. To his credit, he has asked for calm.
International diplomats have pressed Odinga to honour his pledge to protest the results in the courts and not on the street. It seems his call for calm is helping keep the peace.