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Kenyatta, who is the son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, beat his main challenger and prime minister, Raila Odinga, after a hotly- contested March 4 presidential election. Uhuru was deputy president in the Nwai Kibika administration. Kibaki, the outgoing president, has already congratulated Kenyatta on his victory, according to the Kenyan Star newspaper.
“It’s Uhuru!” screamed one news headline from the AllAfrica.com website. Uhuru means freedom in Swahili, the main language of the country.
Freedom for Kenya may come at a cost for the country, after the Uhuru victory. While the country remains calm, Kenyatta will ultimately face and deal with criminal charges while he is the sitting president. He is facing charges, along with his running mate and now deputy-president elect, William Ruto, for their role in post-election violence following the 2007 presidential elections.
In the 2007 elections, Odinga was a challenger to Mwai Kibaki, the incumbent president at the time. While he lost the election, Odinga was offered the post of prime minister in a coalition government.
The official tally gives Kenyatta 50.07 percent of the vote, according to Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the body charged with organizing and supervising the elections. The tally puts Odinga at 43.28 percent.
According to Time magazine, “With the margin of victory so thin, and the count plagued by days of delays and hundreds of thousands of spoiled ballots, Kenyatta’s main rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has already said he will fight it in court.”
Against this backdrop, what is most interesting appears to be this summation from Time’s Alex Perry, about what the election of Kenyatta really means.
“If the result withstands Odinga’s challenge, a win for Kenyatta would represent the most stunning articulation to date of a renewed mood of self-assertion in Africa. Half a century ago, Africa echoed with the sound of anti-colonial liberation. Today, 10 years of dramatic and sustained economic growth and a growing political maturity coinciding with the economic meltdown in the West and political dysfunction in Washington and Europe, has granted Africa’s leaders the authority and means to once again challenge Western intervention on the continent, whether it comes in the form of foreign diplomatic pressure, foreign aid, foreign rights monitors or even foreign correspondents”
International relations and diplomacy for the country may take a hit, as there are indications that the Obama administration, for example, will have a hard time dealing with Kenyatta and a government with little credibility at the top. That may be an awkward situation but ultimately both countries will need to work together to further their common interests, according to Jendayi Frazer, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, now a senior fellow at the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations. “American policy will be pragmatic,” Frazer said during a March 5 conference call, because of Kenya’s importance and U.S. interests in the region.
“And so I suspect that where it might be awkward, there won’t be a significant change in our policy stances towards Kenya or theirs towards us,” Frazer said.
Read more from Time magazine: Kenya’s Election: What Uhuru Kenyatta’s Victory Means for Africa