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Kenya's President William Ruto greets crowds during his swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi. Kenya's President William Ruto greets crowds during his swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi.  (AFP or licensors)

Ruto becomes Kenya's fifth president after close election.

Dr William Ruto was sworn in as Kenya's fifth president on Tuesday, a week after the Supreme Court rejected a challenge by his defeated opponent in a close-fought election.

Reuters – Nairobi, Kenya.

Deputy president for the last decade, Ruto must now confront an economic crisis in East Africa's wealthiest and most stable nation, where food and fuel prices are surging, unemployment is high and public debt rising.

Peace was the catchword

"A village boy has become the president of Kenya," Ruto said at the ceremony, as the crowd erupted in cheers. As severe drought exacerbates a major food crisis in East Africa, he promised to make 40 million half-price bags of fertiliser available next week.

The 55-year-old won last month's election despite a public repudiation by his boss, outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, who said Ruto was "not fit for office". Both sides hurled accusations of corruption during a deeply personal, acrimonious campaign.

Kenyatta's preferred successor, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, had accused Ruto of cheating his way to victory. But Odinga accepted the Supreme Court ruling upholding the result, laying to rest fears of political violence like that seen after disputed elections in 2007 and 2017.

"There should be no revenge," Bishop Mark Kariuki thundered at Tuesday's ceremony, wearing a deep purple stole embroidered "PEACE".

Kenya’s democratic credentials enhanced

Odinga did not attend but Kenyatta shook hands with Ruto before he was sworn in and issued a congratulatory message the night before. In his speech, Ruto asked Kenyatta to continue leading regional peace efforts in neighbouring Ethiopia and African Great Lakes countries.

The peaceful transfer of authority will burnish Kenya's democratic credentials in a region where some leaders have held power for decades.

Clean energy by 2030

Ruto greeted each head of state by name before laying out his next steps in his speech.

He pledged to immediately swear in six judges nominated to the Court of Appeal three years ago and make the police financially independent from the president's office, and to stick to Kenya's plans to produce 100% clean energy by 2030.

Jubilant crowds

Ruto supporters wearing his party's colours of yellow and green had packed Nairobi's 60,000-seat Kasarani Sports Centre by 5 a.m. They danced and waved miniature national flags to the strains of a band.

"He is our fellow youth! I know he will bring us more opportunity," said dancer Juma Dominic as he and his troupe warmed up.

The National Police Service had tweeted that the stadium was full by 5 a.m. and asked citizens to stay home, but crowds continued to try to force their way inside. The St John's Ambulance Service said it had taken several injured people to hospital.

 

13 September 2022, 19:14