UK & World News

  • 9 March 2013, 15:48

Kenya Election: Kenyatta Clinches Narrow Win

Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces trial for alleged crimes against humanity, has clinched victory in a tightly fought race for Kenya's presidency, the electoral commission has confirmed.

The son of the country's founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, needed over 50% of the national vote in the first round to avoid a run-off.

He received 50.07% but the victory is being disputed by his main rival, prime minister Raila Odinga, who said he would challenge the result in the supreme court and asked supporters to avoid violence.

In his acceptance speech, deputy prime minister Mr Kenyatta said he and his team would cooperate with international institutions and that he expected the international community to respect Kenya's sovereignty.

He is a controversial figure as he is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity from his alleged role in the country's bloody 2007-2008 election.

His ICC trial is set to begin in July and could take years, meaning he may have to rule Kenya from The Hague in the Netherlands for much of his five-year term.

With the 51-year-old politician in the top job, Kenya will becomethe second African country after Sudan to have a sittingpresident indicted by the ICC.

Mr Odinga, 68, who has now unsuccessfully sought the presidency three times, said he would have conceded the latest result if the vote was fair.

He added there was "rampant illegality" in theelectoral process and that "democracy was on trial in Kenya".

"If you commit a crime, the crime has got to be caught out. Where there is smoke, there is fire" Franklin Bett, the chairman of Mr Odinga's party, said, as the results tilted in Mr Kenyatta's favour.

Tensions rose in the heartlands of Mr Odinga. His supporters chanted "No Raila, no peace," as security forces stood by in Kisumu, a city where violence flared in 2007.

It was Mr Odinga's contention that the previous election was unfairly stolen from him that led to violent clashes between his followers and supporters of the outgoing president Mwai Kibaki.

The conflict, which pitted members of rival tribes against each other, led to over 1,100 deaths.

"What we wanted was no fighting" said Alex Onyango, an Odinga voter from a Nairobi slum that was shattered by violence in the 07-08 conflict.

"It's OK because there is peace. Uhuru won on the ground. There was no rigging. He just won peacefully."

But Mr Kenyatta's win will take the country into uncharted diplomatic territory.

Western countries, including, the United Kingdom, have an essential contact only policy with indictees of the ICC.

It is not yet clear how that policy will translate into practice.

"I urge all sides to show patience and restraint, to accept defeat or take any disputes to the courts," UK minister for Africa Mark Simmonds said of the election result.

Kenya is the most strategically important country in the region, and is Britain's key counter terrorism partner in the region - crucial to containing the threat of militant Islam posed by neighbouring Somalia.

The UK also does around 1bn of trade with Kenya, and sends thousands of soldiers to train at its army base there every year.

As Kenya nervously awaited the final results in an election plagued by delays in vote counting and technological failure, Mr Kenyatta's team hit out at the British High Commissioner Christian Turner, accusing him of "shadowy, suspicious" meddling in the election.

The Foreign Office denounced the claims as "entirely false and misleading".

But the widespread perception that Mr Kenyatta was unfairly targeted by the West helped build his campaign's momentum in the weeks leading up to the election.

"The (International Criminal Court) will know that the Kenyan people are right. They have decided" said one Kenyatta supporter, Joseph Mwangi, 24.

Speaking to Sky News at a campaign rally ahead of the March 4 election, Mr Kenyatta insisted he would co-operate with International Criminal Court, despite criticism that the demands of the trial would compromise his ability to govern.