Kenya's March 4 elections have produced Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as the country's next president. The elections were not without hitches though.
The presidential race was contentious for the fact that Kenyatta and Vice President-elect William Ruto are suspects on crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court, arising from earlier polls.
Kenyatta was declared winner by the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) after days of anxious waiting and apprehension. Kenyatta, the presidential candidate of the Jubilee Coalition won 50.07 percent of the vote, a narrow margin just slightly above the constitutional requirement of 50 plus one to avoid a runoff against his main challenger, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the candidate of the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD). Odinga has alleged that there had been irregularities in the election and would challenge the results before Kenya's Supreme Court.
Tallying of the votes had run into trouble due to technical hitches, prompting election officials to resort to manual counting, causing much of the delay in releasing the results. The issue of spoiled ballots had also caused some controversy over whether or not to include them in the final tally.
Disputed election results led to widespread violence following the 2007 presidential election which pitted Mwai Kibaki against Raila Odinga in which more than a thousand Kenyans died, while hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homes.
Following intervention by some African countries, a peace deal was struck between the two warring political parties, brokered by the former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan. A power-sharing arrangement was cobbled together with Kibaki as president while Odinga was named prime minister. It was an uneasy coalition of political opponents. For decades, Kenya had been a one-party authoritarian state led by autocrats. The founding father, Jomo Kenyatta ruled with an iron hand followed by his successor Daniel Arap Moi, whose reign was also marked by violations of human rights. The advent of multiparty democracy has put an end to one-man rule.
Like many African countries, Kenya has long been wracked by sharp ethnic divisions that threaten national unity. These manifested in the recent elections as the voting pattern in the presidential election shows. An overwhelming majority of Luo voters in Nyanza province, Odinga's stronghold, voted for CORD while the kikuyu in Central Province voted for Kenyatta almost to a man.
A new constitution adopted in 2010 was supposed to put an end to impunity, decentralizing and devolving power to 47 newly-created counties to be ruled by elected governors. Instead of the previous unicameral legislature with one chamber, Kenya now has a bicameral legislature-a national assembly and a senate all in a bid to deepen democracy.
Kenya has been an oasis of peace in a turbulent neighbourhood with countries such as Somalia. However in the last decade, it had to grapple with challenges of internal strife and terrorism. Kenya cannot afford to be plunged into chaos again given the pivotal role it plays in East Africa. It is the economic hub of the region, and a founding member of the East African Community (EAC). Landlocked members of the EAC, such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi depend on the Kenyan port of Mombasa for their imports and exports.
Kenyans deserve commendation for conducting peaceful elections this time around. It is to be hoped that the situation would remain the same as the Supreme Court begins the process of ruling on the credibility of the results. The fact that Uhuru Kenyatta Ruto are both facing charges for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court may also have served as a deterrent to anyone tempted to incite violence. The wait-and-see posture that the United States and Briton have taken in responding to the election results is not helpful; they, and other Western countries in similar position, should follow the African and Chinese lead and acknowledge that Kenya now has new leaders. Any other position would give many wavering Kenyans the excuse to resort to violence, which would not help the West.