Chaos after William Ruto is declared winner of Kenyan presidential election

Chaos after William Ruto is declared winner of Kenyan presidential election
William Ruto, president of Kenya, addresses the nation in Nairobi on 15 August 2022. (Photo: Michele Spatari / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Four electoral commissioners dissociated themselves from the decision and two were injured at the counting centre shortly after the result was announced.

Chaos erupted in Nairobi after Kenyan Vice-President William Ruto was declared the winner of last week’s presidential election. Fistfights broke out on the stage of the official counting centre, two electoral commissioners were injured and four dissociated themselves from the results, saying the final counting had been “opaque”.

After six days of painstakingly low counting and a 3½-hour delay at the Bomas counting centre, Wafula Chebukati, the chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), announced that Ruto had narrowly squeaked home with 50.49% of the vote, just enough to avoid a runoff against his main rival, former prime minister Raila Odinga, who garnered 48.55% of the vote.

kenya chaos odinga

Kenyan anti-riot police (centre), look on as supporters of the Azimio la Umoja political coalition of losing presidential candidate and Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga shout slogans before the announcement of the winner. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Daniel Irungu)

Odinga was not present to hear the result as the officials of his Azimio coalition said he would not attend because the IEBC had “tampered with” the votes. It was not clear if he would challenge the result in court.

Ruto’s victory was in a sense a minority decision of the IEBC, as before Chebukati’s announcement, four of the seven commissioners, led by IEBC vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera, had stormed out of the counting centre. Cherera announced at a nearby hotel that while the IEBC had until then done a good job of conducting the elections, “We can’t take ownership of the results about to be announced because of the opaque nature of the last phase.”

kenya chaos kisumu

People wait for election results on 15 August in Kisumu, Kenya. (Photo: Ed Ram / Getty Images)

Cherera said she would elaborate later on her concerns and those of commissioners Francis Wanderi, Justus Nyang’aya and Irene Masit about the final tallying of the results. Their concerns were difficult to gauge as all the results had been posted at polling stations and constituency counting centres around the country.

It was not clear if their defection might cast doubt on the official result as the law stipulates that the IEBC should make all its decisions by consensus or a majority of commissioners.


Meanwhile, on the stage of the counting centre, fistfights broke out in full view of the gathered dignitaries and the millions of Kenyans and others observing the ceremony on TV. Police rushed on to the stage to arrest the assailants and protect the commissioners while the choir bravely carried on singing songs about democracy and the rule of law to try to lower heated political temperatures.

kenya chaos ruto

William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance party agents add up the party’s presidential tally before the victory announcement. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Daniel Irungu)

As he rose to announce the results, Chebukati disclosed that two of his commissioners and one IEBC official had been injured and were being treated. Another official had disappeared while on duty and others had been arrested “for no reason” including from the counting centre.

Despite this “intimidation and harassment”, Chebukati said: “I feel proud of having done my duty.” He announced that Ruto had won 7,176,141 votes to Odinga’s 6,942,930, a narrow victory margin of 1.64%. A total of 14,213,027 Kenyans had voted on 9 August — 65.4% of those registered. Two other presidential candidates each gained less than half a percent of the vote. To win in the first round and avoid a runoff with Odinga, Ruto had to get 50% plus one vote of the votes cast, so he just passed that mark.

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He also had to win at least 25% of the vote in at least 24 of the country’s 47 counties and easily managed that, passing the 25% mark in 39 counties, Chebukati said. 

Ruto struck a conciliatory note in his acceptance speech, saying: “There will be no losers.” He reassured that: “Those who have done things against us have nothing to fear. There will be no room for vengeance or for looking back. I will be looking to the future. Our country needs all hands on deck to move forward. We don’t have the luxury to apportion blame.”

He also thanked his “boss”, outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had turned against him and backed Odinga in the elections.

Ruto claimed to have “raised the bar” in the elections by focusing on real issues rather than the ethnic mobilisation which he said had characterised past elections. He thanked his “worthy opponent”, Odinga, for also campaigning on the issues rather than ethnicity.

Ruto promised to run an open and transparent government, vowing to work with the opposition to enable it to provide oversight of his administration.

Odinga supporters riot

Ruto’s claim that Kenya has risen above ethnicity might be tested in the days ahead as Odinga’s supporters digest yet another defeat. 

The results must have been a real heartbreak for Odinga (77), who was making his fifth attempt at the presidency and had been predicted by most polls to finally win — with a big enough majority to avoid a runoff.

Violent protests erupted in his stronghold of Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria in the west, and in parts of Nairobi after the result was announced. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters throwing rocks and burning tyres, claiming the vote had been rigged.  

Meanwhile, supporters of Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza coalition celebrated wildly in his central Kenya strongholds.

The IEBC still has to announce the results of the five other elections held last Tuesday, for the National Assembly, Senate, 47 county governorships, 47 county assemblies, and 47 women county representatives to the National Assembly. DM


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