Nairobi – Jubilant supporters of Kenya’s president-elect William Ruto took to the streets Monday after his election victory was upheld by the Supreme Court, with many ordinary people voicing hope the country could now move on.
In Ruto’s Rift Valley home village of Sugoi, large crowds of people were dancing in celebration, waving posters declaring “The 5th President” and thanking God for his victory in the close-fought August 9 election.
The 55-year-old Ruto will become Kenya’s fifth president since independence from colonial ruler Britain when he is sworn in on September 13.
In other towns, people turned out wearing the bright yellow of Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, chanting, banging plastic buckets and blowing vuvuzelas.
“I am filled with joy,” said Hassan Barre, a Ruto voter in the northeastern town of Garissa.
“We know the lives of Kenyans will be better… all those who are at the bottom will be uplifted. Businesses will flourish and food prices will go down.
Ruto had cast himself as a champion for the downtrodden during his election campaign, promising to create jobs and tackle a cost-of-living crisis that has left many Kenyans struggling to put food on the table.
“I am so happy, so happy,” said Boniface Siene, 45, who works as a security agent and boda boda (motorcycle taxi) driver in the capital Nairobi.
“Now the country can move on. We want change and he will bring change. He will do a lot of good to our country.”
The atmosphere was more sombre in the stronghold of Ruto’s defeated election rival Raila Odinga, who was licking his wounds after his fifth failed bid for the presidency.
Messages calling for peace were plastered on walls and pinned to poles as police patrolled the streets of Kisumu, where violent protests had broken out briefly following the announcement of the results last month.
‘We can’t change the verdict’
Kenya had been on edge awaiting the Supreme Court ruling, with the country still haunted by deadly violence that erupted over previous poll disputes and now grappling with an economic slowdown and crippling drought.
“We don’t want trouble because we have realised we are the ones who suffer,” said Nelima Atieno, a seller of second-hand clothes in Kisumu.
Minibus driver Kevin Omolo mirrored her views, telling AFP: “We don’t want people to demonstrate.”
“We can’t change the verdict even though it is painful.”
In Nairobi, Kenyans voiced hope that life could get back to normal after weeks of uncertainty.
Kenya is the most dynamic economy in East Africa but many are suffering deep hardship, with prices for basic goods skyrocketing and unemployment a major problem particularly among the youth.
“This decision is good for the country. I expected riots, but this announcement enables us to move on,” said 30-year-old flower seller Caroline, adding: “We just want jobs.”
Nicholas, a 30-year-old gardener, told AFP: “What we want is peace, and today, after the decision, it is really calm around. This decision will bring togetherness.”
His view was echoed by Albert Ouma, a Ruto supporter in the coastal city of Mombasa.
“The Supreme Court has given a very good verdict, they have looked at the interest of the nation,” he said.
“Kenyans should remain together and work towards building this nation.”
Picture: Twitter\ @WilliamsRuto