Kenya Supreme Court Confirms Ruto’s Presidential Victory Over Odinga

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Kenya’s Supreme Court on Monday confirmed William Ruto’s victory in the August 9 presidential election, ending weeks of political uncertainty and dealing a blow to challenger Raila Odinga, who alleged fraud in the poll.

“This is a unanimous decision. The petitions are hereby denied, with the result that we declare the first defendant (Ruto) president-elect,” said Chief Justice Martha Koome.

Vice President Ruto, 55, edged to victory by a margin of less than two percentage points in a hard-fought race against Odinga, a veteran opposition politician now backed by the ruling party.

Odinga filed a petition last month with Kenya’s highest court, claiming he had “enough evidence” to show he won the election, which was ranked as one of Africa’s most expensive polls.

Although Election Day passed peacefully, the results sparked angry protests in Odinga’s strongholds, with fears that the dispute could fuel violence in a country with a history of post-election unrest.

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Judges have spent the past two weeks sifting through boxes of evidence to determine whether there were irregularities large enough to nullify the election, as was the case with the August 2017 presidential poll, which Odinga also contested.

Koome began reading the verdict shortly after noon (0900 GMT), methodically listing the court’s response to the nine issues at the heart of the case.

She said the technology used by TBEN and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) met standards of “integrity, verifiability, security and transparency”.

All “irregularities were not such as to affect the final results of the presidential election,” she said, rejecting all of the petitioners’ claims.

Odinga’s 72-page petition alleged that hackers broke into IEBC servers and uploaded manipulated result forms, but the claim was rejected by the court.

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Both candidates had promised to respect the verdict, which sparked celebration among Ruto supporters.

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After the 2017 annulment, the IEBC was under intense pressure to conduct a clean poll.

But this year’s outcome sparked a rift within the IEBC itself, with four of the seven commissioners accusing Chairman Wafula Chebukati of leading an “opaque” trial.

Chebukati denied the allegations and insisted that he perform his duties according to the law of the land, despite facing “harassment and intimidation”.

Since 2002, not a single result of a presidential poll in Kenya has gone unchallenged.

At about 65 percent, turnout was sharply lower than in the August 2017 election, which observers said reflected growing disillusionment among citizens.

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Odinga, who previously said he had been robbed of victory in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 polls, had interpreted the legal battle as a fight “for democracy and good governance”.

Ruto, in turn, had urged the court to throw the petition away, accusing Odinga of trying to “take another bite at the cherry through a judicially enforced repetition”.

In the 2017 poll, dozens of protesters were killed at the hands of the police.

The worst electoral violence in Kenya occurred after the vote in 2007, when more than 1,100 people died in politically motivated clashes involving rival tribes.

Ruto will be sworn in on September 13, becoming Kenya’s fifth president since independence from Britain in 1963, taking over the reins of a country ravaged by inflation, high unemployment and a crippling drought.

(TBEN)