William Ruto was sworn in as Kenya’s fifth president on Tuesday, a week after the Supreme Court dashed the hopes of the country’s most prominent political families and handed over power to a man who started his career as a roadside chicken seller.
Rooto, Who served as the Vice President for the last 10 years, taking office at a time of rising food and fuel prices, high unemployment and rising public debt.
By 5 a.m., Nairobi’s 60,000-seat Kasarani Sports Center was packed with supporters of Routo in his party’s yellow and green colors. They danced and waved miniature national flags like a band.
“He is our fellow youth! I know he will bring us more opportunities,” said dancer Juma Dominic as she and her troupe warmed up.
The National Police Service tweeted that the stadium was full by 5 a.m. and asked citizens to stay home, but the crowd continued to try to get inside. St John’s Ambulance Service said it took several injured people to hospital.
Vice President to President
Ruto has been a deputy to President Uhuru Kenyatta since 2013, but dropped out after the 2017 election. Kenyatta backed opposition leader Raila Odinga for his successor in the August election and disqualified Ruto for the post.
Kenyatta finally publicly congratulated Ruto on the eve of his inauguration.
“You will be president not only for those who voted for you but for all Kenyans,” he said.
Odinga filed a court challenge accusing Ruto of cheating to win, but the Supreme Court rejected his petition along with several others. This was the fifth time that 77-year-old Odinga had stood for election.
Odinga accepted the court’s decision, which helped avoid the kind of violent protests that she lost in the 2007 and 2017 elections. However, he did not attend the inauguration, and said on Monday that the election was not free and fair.
Ruto, a 55-year-old former roadside chicken vendor now a wealthy businessman, campaigned by portraying himself as a Dalit “hustler” battling the elite. Odinga and Kenyatta are the sons of the country’s first Vice President and President respectively.
The message resonated with long-time unemployed youth and families plagued by poverty and rampant corruption, which Kenyatta publicly acknowledged was unable to rein in it.
One of Kenya’s most prominent civil society activists, Boniface Mwangi, said on Monday that overconfidence, disorder and Kenyatta’s embrace had ruined Odinga’s campaign.
“Every time Uhuru spoke on behalf of the party, we were at a loss,” he wrote, pointing out that Kenyatta and Ruto were in charge, while Kenyans had faced 10 years of hardship and corruption. ($1 = 120.3000 Kenyan Shilling)