NAIROBI, KENYA: Kenya’s Supreme Court on Saturday upheld the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as the country’s next president and the loser accepted that verdict, ending an election season that riveted the nation with fears of a repeat of the 2007-08 postelection violence.
Jubilant Kenyatta supporters flooded the streets of downtown Nairobi, honking horns, blowing plastic noisemakers and chanting.
But supporters of defeated Prime Minister Raila Odinga angrily protested after the verdict and police fired tear gas at them outside the Supreme Court.
Outbreaks of violence by Odinga supporters were also reported in some Nairobi slums and truckloads of police were called in to quell the demonstrations, according to reports on a police radio heard by an Associated Press reporter. There was some unrest in Odinga’s home region of Kisumu, in western Kenya, according to residents there.
No deaths or serious injuries were reported in any of the disturbances, police spokesman Maroud Mwinyi said. He said police used “minimum force” to contain the situation. He said the protests were “insignificant compared to the rest of the country where calm has remained. At the end of the day we are looking at the larger welfare of the country.”
In a victory speech late Saturday, Kenyatta urged Kenyans to move past the election and pledged to “work with, and serve, all Kenyans without discrimination whatsoever.”
“Above all, let us continue to pray for peace in our country,” he said.
Odinga, who had challenged the election results, accepted the court ruling and urged national unity and peace. He Odinga wished Kenyatta success and said he hopes the incoming government “will have fidelity to our constitution, and implement it to the letter for the betterment of our people.”
Saturday’s Supreme Court verdict — following a drawn-out court case that raised tensions across the nation — means that Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, is to be sworn in as president on April 9. He will become the second sitting president in Africa to face charges at the International Criminal Court.
Kenyatta and Deputy President-elect William Ruto both face charges that they helped orchestrate the 2007-08 postelection violence in which more than 1,000 people died. Both deny the charges. Ruto’s trial is set to begin in late May; Kenyatta’s is to start in July.
Kenyatta’s win may complicate the U.S. relationship with Kenya, which has the largest American embassy in Africa. Because of the ICC charges against Kenyatta, the United States, Britain and other European countries have said they may have limited contact with Kenya’s new president.
But Western powers can’t completely sever the relationship. Kenya is a key component in the fight against the al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group al-Shabab. Additionally, as East Africa’s largest economy, China is strongly courting Kenya’s leaders, and the West will be loath to lose economic influence there.