Kenyatta was sworn in on Tuesday afternoon at the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani, in Nairobi, closing the chapter on the tense and vigorous electoral process that left the country more divided than ever before in spite of the absence of violence.
Amid the pomp and ceremony, Kenyatta promised to take Kenya forward socially, politically and economically. He said that he would work closely with all Kenyans, including those who did not vote for him.
“Our nation has now successfully navigated the most complex general election in our history. Our journey began three years ago, with the promulgation of a new constitution, and ended 11 days ago, with a landmark Supreme Court decision. Ours has been an unusual story. An unconventional path. We have been praised and criticised in turn – depending on who was telling our story,” Kenyatta said.
“Yet while some watched the unfolding national events with skepticism, resigned to what they believed was the inevitability of chaos, others, the vast majority, looked upon our nation with a tempered hope; cheering us on not only because they believed in us but because they knew that if Kenya succeeded they too would succeed. For all that has been said of our nation, the records of history will attest to a number of undeniable facts.” he added
He thanked Kenyans for exercising restraint and good judgement in times of tumultuous moments in government.
“Where the system failed, Kenyans did not. Where decisions were delayed and ambiguity prevailed, Kenyans were patient-seeking and waiting for clarity. Where contentious issues rose up to stir up dissent, Kenyans exercised restraint, peacefully sought redress and submitted themselves again to the constitution and the rule of law- united in the belief that God’s judgement would guide that of men,” he said.
He has promised free maternity health care to all women within 100 days of taking office and free lap tops to school-going children, beginning next year.
Kenyatta becomes the first Kenyan president under the new constitution that has trimmed the powers of the president as the devolved system of government takes effect. He was born in 1961, just two years before Kenya attained independence under his father, Jomo Kenyatta as President, and his competitor, Raila Odinga’s father, as vice-president.
Propped up by Moi
He was named Uhuru, Kiswahili for independence, in anticipation of the freedom the country was to receive after years of colonisation from the British government. A graduate of political science from Amherst College in the US, Kenyatta first ventured into politics as a presidential candidate in 2002, when former Kenyan dictator, Daniel Arap Moi, propped him up as his preferred successor.
He was trounced by the outgoing president, Mwai Kibaki. In 2007, Kenyatta teamed up with Kibaki to fight off challenge from outgoing prime minister Raila Odinga. The election ended in a stalemate and Kibaki was sworn in at night, leading to outrage and massive violence, during which more than 1,000 people were killed and about 350,000 displaced. To end the unrest, a coalition government was formed with Kibaki as president, sharing power with Odinga, who took oath as the prime minister.
Kenyatta was appointed Odinga’s deputy and minister for trade, and later finance minister. He was named alongside his deputy, William Ruto, journalist Joshua Sang, former head of public service, Francis Muthaura, former police ccommissioner, Hussein Ali and former industrialisation minister, Henry Kosgey, as the key perpetrators of the infamous 2008 post-election violence.
Henry Kosgey and Hussein Ali have since been exonerated by the ICC while accusations against Muthaura were dropped for lack of enough evidence, after key witnesses said to have recanted their statements.
Opinions are divided on the suitability of Kenyatta’s presidency. While some feel that he should have not sought any elective post until cleared by the ICC, and that he election was illegitimate, his supporters maintain that the charges against him are framed by his enemies and that he won fair and square.
“It has tainted the image of our country to have an international suspect reign over a developing country like Kenya. It will negatively impact on our country. He should have waited until set free by the courts,” said Carolyne Anywera, a student at the University of Nairobi.
Businessman Jim Ambuka said: “To me, he is a president of his supporters, not majority of Kenyans. I am not convinced by the supreme court’s verdict. I see an individual who wants to use power to protect himself against ICC rather than to lead the nation to prosperity.”
His supporters think otherwise. “Uhuru Kenyatta is our hero. He means good for the country. We know very well the international community wanted to serve their own interest in the country,” said Paul Kamau, a hawker in Nairobi.
“Uhuru Kenyatta means well for Kenya, and that is manifested in his speech today and before. He has always said he will remain cooperative to the ICC. I therefore see no fuss about the future of Kenya,” added Eric Ngugi.
With the mantle of leadership, all will be watching how he will juggle between ICC case and service to his country. Will he pull the same trick as Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir on the ICC?
Source: The Guardian