Kenya’s new president William Ruto says he will engage with legal challenges but wants to move country forward

President-elect’s opponent Raila Odinga plans to pursue ‘all constitutional and legal options’ to challenge the result of election

Kenya’s president-elect William Ruto has said he will engage with any legal challenges to his victory in the August 9th election, but he is ready to appoint a transitional committee and move the country forward.

“If there will be court processes we will engage in those because we are democrats and we believe in the rule of law,” the 55-year-old said, speaking to newly elected aligned with his United Democratic Alliance party, on Wednesday afternoon.

“With authority comes responsibility and with responsibility comes accountability,” Mr Ruto said. “The expectations of the people of Kenya are huge. Therefore we do not have the luxury of wasting any time . . . We must get on, roll up our sleeves, tighten up our belts, pull up our socks and begin the process of delivering our commitments to the people of Kenya.”

The speech took place in a big marquee in the garden of Mr Ruto’s residence in Karen, an upscale Nairobi neighbourhood. Present were about 163 MPs, 24 senators, and eight independent politicians, according to the president, who called them out in groups.


Many applauded after Mr Ruto said that the people there could go back to using their normal phone lines to make calls, rather than encrypted applications. “Our administration will have nothing to do with the blackmail, the threats we have seen,” he said. “We are having our democratic country back.”

Kenya, an east African country of roughly 55 million people, is praised internationally as one of the region’s most stable democracies. However, the results of the presidential vote were thrown into turmoil on Monday as four of Kenya’s seven electoral commissioners declared that they could not stand behind them, less than an hour before Mr Ruto was announced as the winner.

The dissenting commissioners were appointed last year by outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta, a backer of Mr Ruto’s opponent, Raila Odinga. They have since been widely criticised for claiming that 0.01 percent of the total valid votes – a number they said could make a “significant difference” – equated to 142,000 votes, when actually it works out as 1,420.

On Tuesday Mr Odinga, a five-time presidential hopeful, made a national address in which he said he was pursuing “all constitutional and legal options” to challenge the result.

Mr Odinga has seven days from Monday’s declaration to file a petition with Kenya’s supreme court. In 2017, the court annulled the result of an election in which Mr Kenyatta beat Mr Odinga, but Mr Kenyatta also won the re-run.

As politicians ate lunch and chatted, dozens of people were gathered outside the heavily guarded gate of Mr Ruto’s residence, waiting for a glimpse of the president-elect and his wife, Rachel Chebet Ruto.

Pushing a cart with life-size paintings of the incoming president and deputy president was Joseph Mwangi, a 39-year-old who says he cares for 26 orphans and needs 300,000 Kenyan shillings (€2,464) to put towards their needs.

He said he had come from Kiambu, about 37km away by road, and had been sleeping outside Mr Ruto’s home for the past three days.

“We have a message for the first lady that came from God,” said Pauline Wangui, a 25-year-old who was standing nearby with two friends. She said she arrived at 8am, and would leave only when God told her it was time to do so.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa