Published: March 11, 2013
NAIROBI, Kenya — In the Kibera slum, where the sun beats down mercilessly on the metal shacks and ribbons of raw sewage snake across the dirt, people are about as angry as they have ever been. Their preferred presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, lost the election. He claims it was rigged, again. And he is refusing to concede.But unlike the reaction after the last presidential election, in 2007, which Mr. Odinga also lost amid evidence of vote rigging, Kibera has not exploded. There have been no major clashes this time, here or anywhere else across Kenya, no blockading of national highways or ripping up of train tracks.The chaos that reigned during the last election dispute cost more than 1,000 lives and shook Kenya to its core, but so far this disputed election seems to have been absorbed remarkably peacefully.“I am not a happy man,” said John Otieno, a community leader in Kibera and an Odinga stalwart.A crowd of young men who had gathered around him on Monday morning grunted their support, muttering the words “thief” and “stolen.”
“But there will be no protests,” Mr. Otieno said, and the men around him simmered down. “We will listen to our leader. Raila said he will take this to the courts, and we have faith in the courts. We will wait for them.”“Kenya,” he said grandly, “has changed.”
Though the electoral drama has not been fully resolved, Kenya has greatly defied expectations, along the lines of what Uhuru Kenyatta, the president-elect, said in his acceptance speech on Saturday: “Finally, Kenya has come of age.”The raft of reforms this country made after the crisis of late 2007 and early 2008, and the extensive antiviolence messages during this election, seemed to have found their mark. Since the election results were announced Saturday, giving the presidency to Mr. Kenyatta in a surprising first-round victory, top politicians down to neighborhood activists have been calling for peace — and the peace has been holding, even in passionate Odinga strongholds like Kibera and Kisumu (in western Kenya) and along the coast.A big reason is that Mr. Odinga, who says he has detailed information about inflated voter turnout and the theft of thousands of votes, has decided to take his grievances to the courts this time, not to the streets. He says he has faith in the judiciary, which in 2007 was widely dismissed as inept and corrupt, but is now respected as one of Kenya’s more dependable public institutions. Willy Mutunga, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, is one of Kenya’s most trusted public officials, though some analysts have raised doubts about the other five justices.
Many of the same underlying tensions that agitated Kenyans in 2007 still exist, like yawning economic inequality, historic disputes over land and the bitterness that many feel about the continued dominance of Mr. Kenyatta’s ethnic group, the Kikuyu, in business and politics. But this election was run differently and much more transparently, giving Kenyans a window into the vote counting as it was ticking along last week.Mr. Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president and one of the richest men in this part of Africa, jumped out to an early lead and held it the whole time, finishing nearly one million votes ahead. The only question seems to be if Mr. Kenyatta cleared the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. According to official results, he did so by less than a tenth of a percent. If Mr. Odinga, who got about 43 percent, can show that a few thousand votes were rigged, there is a chance that the Supreme Court could order a new election or a runoff.
Mr. Odinga is an ethnic Luo, but unlike last time — when thousands of Luos poured into the streets, screaming, “No Raila, no peace!” — many Luos now just want him to concede.
“I think he lost,” said Dominico Owiti, a retired civil servant. “Going to court is not going to help. It just suspends the problem.” Elections create huge anxiety in Kenya, and many people across the political spectrum said they did not want to go through the horrors of the last election again. Still, there were fears. Schools were closed all last week, and many people did not go to work, worried about what might happen when the results came out. In Kibera, the price of basic staples, like cabbage and dried fish, soared. It was only on Monday that life began to resemble normal, with the dirt streets thick with people marching to work. Mr. Odinga is expected to file his case in the next few days, with the Supreme Court hearing it soon. Election observers seem split on the merits. Some say there is evidence of vote tampering. Others, including a network of Kenyan nonprofit organizations, said the results were credible. But even if the court rules against Mr. Odinga and affirms Mr. Kenyatta’s win, this election will still cast a long shadow.Both Mr. Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, scheduled to be the deputy president, have been accused by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity. Prosecutors say the two men organized widespread killings during the election mayhem last time.
Both have insisted that they are innocent and that their cases are based on gossip. Some independent analysts have said that the cases, especially the one against Mr. Kenyatta, are weak.On Monday, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court dropped all charges against Francis Kirimi Muthaura, a former Kenyan official who had been accused of working with Mr. Kenyatta to organize death squads. The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said she was forced to drop the case because several important witnesses had “either been killed or have died,” while “others are too afraid to testify.”She said one witness had recanted and admitted that he had accepted money to withdraw his testimony. She also said that the government had “failed to provide my office with important evidence and failed to facilitate our access to critical witnesses.”But she emphasized that the cases against Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto would continue, though legal experts wonder how easy it will be to find witnesses to speak out against Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto, now that they have won.
Western powers, including the United States, have been uncomfortable about a Kenyatta win, though it is not clear what the West will actually do given that Kenya has become such a strategic partner in a volatile region.
Over the weekend, several African countries sent warm congratulations to Mr. Kenyatta, with Uganda speaking of “brotherly relations.” But statements from the United States, Britain and the European Union stuck to congratulating the Kenyan people, pointedly avoiding any mention of Mr. Kenyatta.“It’s still disputed,” one American official explained.The International Criminal Court seems to have been a significant factor throughout this election. Analysts said that Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto, who were fierce political enemies in 2007, with members of their communities killing each other, decided to join forces this time because they thought it was the best way to beat the charges.Their union fused together two of Kenya’s biggest ethnic blocs, the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin, and on Election Day their supporters turned out en masse, galvanized by the perception that Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto were being attacked by outside forces.Now that the two have won, many supporters wonder why the International Criminal Court cases are even necessary.“If Uhuru and Ruto have succeeded in reconciling warring communities, isn’t that the point?” asked Edward Kirathe, a real estate developer. “What other interest does the I.C.C. have?”