William Ruto has been declared the winner of Kenya’s presidential election – moments after the main count was interrupted as scuffles broke out.
Mr Ruto is currently the country’s deputy president and has beaten opposition leader Raila Odinga to the top job after winning 50.49% of the vote.
“I want to thank God for getting us to this point, I want to thank God that today we have concluded this election, ” Mr Ruto said.
“There were predictions that we wouldn’t get here, but because there is a God in heaven we are here, and I want to, in a very special way, to say, and to confess, that without God we wouldn’t have been here.”
Mr Ruto shook up politics by appealing to struggling Kenyans on economic terms and not on traditional ethnic ones.
Despite being sidelined by the president, he had told voters that the election was between “hustlers” like him from modest backgrounds and the “dynasties” of outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, whose fathers were Kenya’s first president and vice president.
Mr Odinga has sought the presidency for a quarter of a century.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Ruto also thanked Mr Odinga and emphasised an election that focused on issues and not ethnic divisions, saying that “gratitude goes to millions of Kenyans who refused to be boxed into tribal cocoons”.
Earlier, chairs were thrown, bottles were smashed and a lectern was knocked over as chaos erupted in the main counting hall in Nairobi.
Diplomats and international observers were whisked out as supporters of Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga clashed with police.
It descended into chaotic scenes after the deputy chairperson of the election commission, Juliana Cherera, and three other commissioners disowned the results.
“We are not able to take ownership of the results that will be announced,” Ms Cherera told reporters before Mr Ruto’s victory was revealed.
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Amid fears that vote-rigging allegations could lead to outbreaks of violence, Ms Cherera also urged the parties to pursue any disputes through the courts.
The sudden split in the commission came minutes after Mr Odinga’s chief agent said they could not verify the results and made allegations of “electoral offences” without giving details or evidence.
Two commissioners and the chief executive of the commission were injured in the scuffles and are receiving treatment.
People had been waiting at the centre for hours following several delays to the election result being announced.
The building was packed with party officials, who were being entertained by musicians calling for calm.
Ruto opponents say ‘it is not over til it is over’
Last week, millions of Kenyans exercised their democratic rights and voted for their next round of political leaders.
But today as chairs and tables were flipped and flung across the national tallying centre in Nairobi, hopes of a smooth and successful electoral process were sadly shattered.
Shortly after four electoral commissioners disavowed the final results and labelled the tallying as “opaque”, members of Mr Odinga’s Azimio party swung into action inside the centre.
Chairs were thrown, tables flipped and a lectern lifted and dashed from above. All hell broke loose as Azimio loyalists waved their arms in an X sign to a balcony of journalists.
Their rejection of the upcoming announcement was clear – even as anti-riot police cracked down on them.
Force was met with force as dissidents were trampled on and escorted out of the centre to the cheers of Mr Ruto’s UDA party members.
The frenzy gave way to an eerie calm and soon after William Ruto arrived to the cheers of his party and dizzied election observers.
A short ironic prayer on peace and healing introduced the IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati, who cut right to the chase.
Protests raged against the result in Mr Odinga’s Nairobi stronghold, Kibera.
In the port city of Kisumu, police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Celebrations roared in Mr Ruto’s hometown El-Doret and parts of the capital.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Ruto thanked his “worthy opponent” Mr Odinga and current president Uhuru Kenyatta, who he referred to as his “boss”.
Both men are yet to comment on the outcome.
The response came from Martha Karua, Mr Odinga’s running mate, who was set to become the first female vice president of Kenya.
“It is not over til it is over,” she tweeted.
I asked Mr Ruto about the tweet at a press conference shortly after his declared win.
“How will you respond to a contested election outcome?”
“This election to the best of our knowledge and understanding is over,” he replied.