By George Obulutsa
Nairobi – William Ruto is due to be sworn in as Kenya’s fifth president today, a week after the Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit from a veteran opposition leader challenging his victory.
Ruto, a gifted orator with a strong work ethic, will have to blunt the impact of the global surge in food and fuel prices for poor Kenyans, try to solve high unemployment and tackle the rising public debt that his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta has used to finance development over the past 10 years.
Ruto has served as Kenyatta’s deputy since 2013, but they fell out after the last election. Kenyatta had backed opposition leader Raila Odinga to succeed him and denounced Ruto as unfit for office.
Thank you President Kenyatta for the tour and orientation at @StateHouseKenya and smooth management of the handover process. I am ready to carry on with the journey to transform the country for the better. pic.twitter.com/7IYQA4vF3p— William Samoei Ruto, PhD (@WilliamsRuto) September 12, 2022
“Mr President-elect, as you walk the path to your inauguration and beyond, you will be president not just for those who voted for you but for all Kenyans,” Kenyatta said in an address on Monday night, wishing Ruto well.
Odinga had filed a court challenge accusing Ruto of cheating his way to victory but the Supreme Court swept aside his petition alongside several others. It was the fifth time that Odinga, 77, had stood for election.
“Democracy is expected to unite people, strengthen their society and improve its institutions and must not become an acrimonious, fearful and desperate enterprise,” Ruto tweeted after the ruling.
“Those who voted for me as well as those who voted for my competitors want the same thing for themselves and for their children.”
Ruto, a 55-year-old former roadside chicken seller who is now a wealthy businessman, portrayed himself as an underdog battling the elite during the campaigns, pointing out that Odinga and Kenyatta were the sons of the nation’s first vice president and president respectively.
That message resonated with chronically underemployed youths and families squeezed by poverty and rampant corruption, which Kenyatta publicly acknowledged that he was unable to rein in.
Ruto will be sworn in at the Kasarani Sports Centre in the capital Nairobi in a ceremony attended by regional leaders.Television footage on Monday showed a military band practising alongside their fellow soldiers perfecting their drills.
Kenya is a key Western ally in an unstable region, and East Africa’s most wealthy and influential nation. It hosts the regional headquarters of many global companies and organisations.