After weeks of controversy and legal battles, the “child of the people” William Ruto was sworn in as the new president of Kenya

Kenya’s new President William Ruto, center, holds the hand of Chief Justice Martha Koome, left, accompanied by his wife Rachel Ruto, right, as he is sworn in at a ceremony held at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday. Sept. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga) (Brian Inganga/)

William Ruto was sworn in as Kenya’s president on Tuesday after narrowly winning elections on August 9 in East Africa‘s most stable democracy, and was quick to signal that his leadership will be strongly Christian.

The Supreme Court last week rejected a challenge by losing candidate and opposition figure Raila Odinga from the official results, capping off a remarkably peaceful election in a country with a troubled history.

Ruto, 55, had been a deputy for outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, but had a bitter break with Kenyatta that left them speechless for months.. On Tuesday, the audience cheered as the two shook hands and again as Kenyatta handed over the instruments of power.

Ruto becomes president of Kenya
Kenya’s new President William Ruto, right, poses after shaking hands with outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, as he is sworn in at a ceremony at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday September 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga) (Brian Inganga/)

Ruto, who knelt in tears and prayers as the court upheld his victory, knelt again on stage minutes after he was sworn in during a lengthy sermon. “A chicken seller to a president”intoned the pastor, highlighting Ruto’s humble youth.

Ruto’s first tweet quotes Psalms: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” In his speech, he praised both the church and the Islamic leadership and promised that “we will enhance our partnership, build on our collaboration and increase our support for them.”

The event began with some chaos. Dozens of people were crushed and injured when they forced their way into the packed stadium.. A doctor said a fence fell after people pushed on it and around 60 people were injured, although the number could rise.

Ruto becomes president of Kenya
Medics treat the injured after people broke through barriers and caused a stampede while trying to force their way into Kasarani Stadium. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga) (Brian Inganga/)

“We had to treat some with minor injuries. Most of them were rushed to the main hospital in Nairobi,” said doctor Peter Muiruri.

People tried to dodge security forces wielding batons. Some failed. “The police beat me up when I was trying to get in,” said a witness, Benson Kimutai.

Ruto is assuming power in a heavily debt-ridden country that will test his efforts to deliver on sweeping campaign promises to Kenya’s poor, whom he has described as surviving on “stubborn hope.” In his speech, he acknowledged that “we are clearly living beyond our means.”

Ruto becomes president of Kenya
Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects his final guard of honor during the swearing-in ceremony for Kenya’s new President William Ruto. (AP Photo/Sayyid Abdul Azim) (Sayyid Abdul Azim/)

He promised cheaper fertilizer as food prices rise and more affordable credit. He also promised more money for the judiciary, financial independence for the national police from the presidency and efforts to combat a drought in northern Kenya that brings the threat of famine.

Ruto also called on Kenyatta to continue “chairing discussions” on regional crises in neighboring Ethiopia, where the government is fighting Tigray forces, and in eastern Congo, where there are tensions with Rwanda. Kenyatta has accepted, said the new president.

with the transition, the presidency of Kenya passes from one leader indicted by the International Criminal Court to another. Both Kenyatta and Ruto were charged for their role in the deadly 2007 post-election violence, but the cases were later closed amid claims of witness intimidation..

Ruto becomes president of Kenya
Supporters gather in the stands, one waving a national flag, as they await the inauguration of Kenya’s new president. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga) (Brian Inganga/)

The August elections were quiet in a country with a history of political violence. Chaos erupted only in the final minutes when the electoral commission publicly split and prominent Odinga supporters tried to physically stop Ruto from being declared the winner.

Ruto’s campaign portrayed him as a “con man” with a humble background of going barefoot and selling roadside chickens, a counterpoint to the political dynasties represented by Kenyatta and Odinga. His presidential flag features a wheelbarrow, the symbol of his campaign.

“A boy from the village has become the president of Kenya,” he said on Tuesday.

Ruto becomes president of Kenya
The outgoing president, Uhuru Kenyatta, greets the people. (AP Photo/Sayyid Abdul Azim) (Sayyid Abdul Azim/)

But Ruto received powerful political guidance as a young man from former President Daniel arap Moi, who oversaw a one-party state for years before Kenyans successfully pushed for multi-party elections.

Ruto now speaks of democracy and has promised that there will be no reprisals against dissenting voices. “I will work with all Kenyans regardless of who they voted for”he said in his speech.

But in a warning signal to the media, local stations accused by Ruto of bias in the past were restricted in their coverage of the inauguration and forced to use a feed from a South African station in which the Kenyan national station has a stake. .

Ruto becomes president of Kenya
Kenya’s new President William Ruto, right, seen behind a fireworks fountain, shakes hands with outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, as he is sworn in at a ceremony at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi . (AP Photo/Brian Inganga) (Brian Inganga /)

The losing candidate, Odinga, 77, is establishing himself as a prominent opposition voice once again after being backed by his former rival Kenyatta in the election. In a statement Monday, he said he would skip the inauguration and then “announce next steps as we seek to deepen and strengthen our democracy.”

Although Odinga also claimed that “the outcome of the election remains undetermined,” a spokesman told The Associated Press that it was “highly unlikely” that he would seek to declare himself “people’s president” as he did after losing the 2017 election.

(with information from AP)


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