Kenya’s president-elect will ‘engage’ in any court challenge

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan president-elect William Ruto says that if there’s a court challenge to the election results, “we will engage in those” as East Africa’s most stable democracy awaits a likely petition from losing candidate Raila Odinga.

Ruto spoke to journalists on Wednesday after meeting with members of his political alliance. He declared that his administration “will have nothing to do with the blackmail we have seen, the threats we have seen, the fear sown around the country” amid differing political views. “We are having our democratic country back,” he said.

Ruto, Kenya’s deputy president, was declared the winner of last week’s close election on Monday, but the electoral commission publicly split minutes before the declaration. Four of the seven commissioners, who were appointed last year by President Uhuru Kenyatta, asserted that the commission chair excluded them from the final steps before his declaration.

On Wednesday, commission chairman Wafula Chebukati in a statement responding to the allegations asserted that the four dissenting commissioners “demanded that the chairperson moderates the results for purpose of forcing an election re-run contrary to their oath of office. This is tantamount to subverting the Constitution and the sovereign will of the people of Kenya.”

Odinga, an opposition figure in his fifth attempt at the presidency, has said his campaign will pursue “all constitutional and legal options” to challenge the election results. He met with his team behind closed doors Wednesday. They have seven days from Monday’s declaration to file at the Supreme Court, which then has 14 days to rule on it.

It is not clear on what grounds Odinga would challenge the results in an election widely described by Kenyans and observers as more transparent and peaceful than ever. He has urged his often passionate supporters to remain calm.

“Ours is victory deferred, but it’s coming home,” Odinga’s running mate, Martha Karua, told journalists Wednesday. “We’ll not let you down.”

In a political twist, Kenyatta backed his longtime rival Odinga in this election after falling out with his deputy, Ruto, years ago. Kenyatta has not spoken publicly since he cast his vote last Tuesday, and his spokeswoman Kanze Dena didn’t respond when asked when he would make a statement to the country.

Ruto on Wednesday said there will be “no room for exclusion of any part” of Kenya and hoped to “eliminate ethnicity from the equation from the leadership or governance” of the country. He also vowed public servants will be professional and would be under no pressure to carry out political work for any party.

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