Kenya has very large users of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. Since Tuesday, 9th September when general elections were held, the citizenry have been forced into unguided expectations about the outcomes. To bridge the gap, misinformation, or ‘fake news’ freely roamed social media.
A long expectation weakens the spirit. Thus, anxieties reigned in the minds of politicians and the electorate as they languidly awaited the outcome of final tallies by the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission, IEBC, the only body permitted to announce election results.
The long wait came to an end on Monday when the electoral body declared Vice President William Ruto candidate of the United Democratic Alliance, winner of the election.
According to the electoral commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati, Ruto polled 50.5 per cent of the votes to beat his closest challenger and opposition leader, Ralis Odinga, a former Prime Minister and candidate of the Orange Democratic Party, who polled 48.8 per cent.
The other major candidates were David Waihiga of the Again Party, and George Wajackoyah, of the Roots Party of Kenya.
The declaration triggered drama and chaos in some quarters. Four out of the seven members of the electoral body disagreed with the results describing them as opaque.
“We cannot take ownership of the result that is going to be announced because of the opaque nature of this last phase of the general election,” said Juliana Cherera, the vice-chairperson of IEBC.
“We are going to give a comprehensive statement… and again we urge Kenyans to keep calm,” she said.
To streamline the collation process and reduce the escape of wrong results into the public domain, the electoral umpire at a time, barred the media from tallying polls.
More than 22 million people participated in the polls and the commission had a week to make the results public.
The result was a big surprise as many pundits favoured 77-year-old Odinga to clinch victory. He had been on the ballot in four previous presidential elections. This was his fifth and he had the support of outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, an old political foe, with whom he had recently reconciled.
Odinga’s supporters have reportedly started protests in parts of the country. In 2007 and 2017, his supporters also stormed the streets in rejection of election results. The protests claimed hundreds of lives.
However, the President-elect has waved the olive branch. It would be recalled that the 55-year-old Ruto fell out with his boss of ten years, over his presidential ambition. This was his first attempt. In a victory speech, he promised an inclusive and open government.
“It is a wonderful evening… all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya,” he said, calling Mr Chebukati a “hero”.
“To those who have done many things against us, I want to tell them there’s nothing to fear. There will be no vengeance. We do not have the luxury to look back,” he added.
Ruto during the campaigns portrayed himself as a self-made “hustler” in contrast to political dynasties. Odinga and Kenyatta are the sons of Kenya’s first vice president and president, respectively. His victory must be a major surprise to bookmakers