Uhuru Kenyatta has been sworn in as the Kenya’s fourth president in a stadium filled with tens of thousands of supporters and a dozen African leaders.
Mr 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.
A jubilant crowd swathed in his campaign colour 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 Mr Kenyatta now faces charges for at The Hague in the Netherlands. He 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. His deputy president, William Ruto, faces similar charges. His trial is set to begin in May.
Kenya is the linchpin 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 US military base near the Somali border.
Mr Kenyatta – the son of Jomo Kenyatta – beat seven other presidential candidates with 50.07% of the vote. That slim win was challenged by outgoing prime minister Raila Odinga and civil society groups that complained of anomalies in the voting process. The Supreme Court upheld Mr Kenyatta’s win after nationally televised hearings.
That court process and requests by Mr Odinga for peace, helped Kenya avoid the bloody deaths the country saw for two months in late 2007 and early 2008.