NAIROBI, KENYA: It is no more news that, once again, a Kenyatta has taken the reins.
Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as Kenya’s fourth president Tuesday April 9, in a stadium filled with tens of thousands of Kenyans and a dozen African leaders.
Kenyatta, 51, the son of Kenya’s first president, becomes the second sitting African president to face charges at the International Criminal Court over allegations he helped orchestrate the vicious tribe-on-tribe violence that marred Kenya’s 2007 presidential election.
Uganda’s president and Kenya’s new deputy president used the swearing-in to take clear swipes at the ICC and at a U.S. warning before the March 4 election that a Kenyatta win would carry “consequences” for Kenya.
“I want to salute the Kenyan voters on one other issue — the rejection of the blackmail by the International Criminal Court and those who seek to abuse this institution for their own agenda,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told the cheering crowd, adding: “They are now using it to install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate the ones they do not like.”
A jubilant crowd swathed in Kenyatta’s campaign color of red loudly interrupted the swearing-in with rapturous cheers.
The ceremony stood in stark contrast to a rushed ceremony closed to the public five years ago to swear in outgoing President Mwai Kibaki, whom political opponents accused of stealing the 2007 vote. Those suspicions set off weeks of tribal violence that killed more than 1,000 people.
It is that violence that Kenyatta now faces charges for at The Hague in the Netherlands. Kenyatta denies the prosecutor’s charges that he helped orchestrate the violence and has pledged to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. His trial is scheduled to begin in July. Ruto faces similar charges in a trial set for May.
Because of those charges, the top U.S. official for Africa just days before the March 4 vote warned of “consequences” if Kenyatta was voted into office. European countries offered similar warnings. But the U.S. ambassador and European ambassadors were in attendance at Tuesday’s ceremony, and analysts say they doubt the pre-election warnings will amount to very much.
Kenya is the lynchpin economy for East Africa’s economy and the West’s most vital security partner. Kenyan troops are helping battle al-Shabab militants inside Somalia, and Kenya hosts a U.S. military base near the Somali border.