PIC: Supporters of President-elect Kenyatta celebrate in Nairobi. (AFP)
KENYA GENERAL ELECTIONS 2017
NAIROBI - President Uhuru Kenyatta was Friday late evening declared winner of the feisty 2017 Kenyan presidential election by the national electoral commission (the IEBC), defeating his fierce challenger Raila Odinga to secure re-election.
Just like in 2013, Kenyatta of the governing Jubilee Party once again beat rival Odinga, who this time round contested as the leader of an opposition coalition, National Super Alliance (NASA) that voiced strong criticism over the way the ballots were collated following voting.
Despite putting the IEBC on spot, citing alleged hacking of the commission's IT system, the electoral body stood its ground and went ahead with the announcement of the results after collating all the results.
Kenyatta, 55, was declared winner by the IEBC chairman and returning officer Wafula Chebukati at Bomas of Kenya shortly after 10pm East African Time after hours of anticipation of the official announcement.
Bomas, where much of the public focus had been since Tuesday's voting, has been the national tallying centre, located in Nairobi.
There was a heavy security presence at Bomas Kenya ahead of the anticipated announcement
After delivering his remarks, a dark suit-clad Chebukati came close to declaring the results, only to be cut short by IEBC commissioner Dr. Roselyn Akombe to remind him that the results had to be signed first by chief agents and IEBC commissioners, including Chebukati himself.
And once this formality was out of the way, the moment a nation had been waiting for finally came. First, Chebukati read out the presidential results by county, before declaring Uhuru Kenyatta the overall winner, accompanied by huge applause inside the packed hall and in several parts of the country amongst his supporters.
The IEBC chairman also declared Kenyatta's running mate William Ruto, 50, deputy president-elect and issued both of them certificates.
President-elect Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding president Jomo Kenyatta, won with 8,203,290 votes (54.27%) against Odinga's 6,762,224 votes (44.74%).
Six others also took part in the all-male presidential race but the main contest had always been poised to be a Kenyatta-versus-Odinga affair.
Candidate Kenyatta pictured here with his wife Margaret on voting day. (AFP)
'We won't be part of the event'
Hours towards the announcement, NASA chief agent Musalia Mudavadi, flanked by coalition officials, told reporters at Bomas that they would not take part in the event, saying it was of no use since the IEBC had allegedly told them that it would only hear their concerns after the official release of the results.
NASA's alternate chief agent James Orengo went on to claim that the IEBC "is part of the Executive" and that Jubilee had long known the outcome of the election.
After their address, the group drove off.
On Wednesday, Odinga (pictured) and co. claimed that the IEBC IT systems had been hacked and votes manipulated in favour of his rival Kenyatta. The announcement sparked off protests by Odinga's supporters in some parts of the country and consequently clashes with police.
News agency AFP reported that four people were killed in these clashes, mainly in the opposition strongholds of Kisumu and in Nairobi slums.
On Thursday, NASA demanded that the electoral commission declares their candidate, Odinga, the president-elect, sparking celebrations in opposition strongholds.
International observers, in their preliminary reports, generally praised the election for being free and fair thus far.
On Friday, hours before the much-awaited announcement, NASA told a press conference their terms for concession of defeat.
They asked the IEBC to grant them and other candidates access to the IEBC servers, saying that they would accept the presidential result if indeed they have been defeated.
In the lead-up to the announcement of the final result, IEBC's results portal, open to the public, showed Kenyatta well in the lead by more than one million votes.
Having first ascended to the helm in April 2013, president-elect Kenyatta is now set for a second and last term in power.
This is the fourth time that his rival Odinga has given the presidency a shot, and it is as many times that he has been unsuccessful at it.
'Thank you very much' - what Kenyatta said
In his brief remarks shortly after being declared winner for re-election, Kenyatta, to begin with, thanked God and then his admnistration.
"To them (his team), ours is just a pledge that we shall continue with what we have already started and re-dedicate ourselves even more towards serving this great nation and our people. Thank you very much Kenya," said the president-elect.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the electoral commission for a job well done. I think, they have done the best that they can do. To the commissioners, to the staff, thank you very very much. It has been a very long week ... we were determined that we would be patient and wait for the final results as indeed has been declared. Asante sana IEBC for a wonderful job, thank you very much, we appreciate.
"I would also like to thank all our supporters and all the people who have worked very very very hard for the last many months -- all Jubilee supporters, all our staff, all the politicians - men and women - who fought gallantly for various positions across the country. Tunawashukuru sana. Asanteni sana.
"Congratulations to all those who have won, and to those who have lost, we say 'we live to fight another day'. I also like to thank all your brothers who have been with us for the last few days. We thank you for your contribution in helping to ensure that Kenyans have had a free, transparent and credible election."
'I extend a hand of friendship'
Kenyatta went on: "Last thing and most importantly, to our brothers who were worthy competitors, we are not enemies. We are all citizens of one republic. As with any competition, there shall always be winners and there shall be losers, but we all belong to one great nation called Kenya. And I extend a hand of friendship, I extend a hand of cooperation, I extend a hand of partnership, knowing fully well that this country needs more of pulling together in order for us to succeed."
And to his "worthy competitor" Raila Odinga, Kenyatta said: "I reach out to you, I reach out to all your supporters, I reach out to all who were elected (...), we shall work together, we shall partner together, we shall grow together, we shall develop this country together."
'There is no need for violence'
The president-elect said: "Twashukuru Mungu and to my fellow Kenyans, as we have always stated: elections come and go, Kenya is here to stay. And as I have said severally, in all our campaign rallies, that we have always to remember that we are brothers and sisters. Your neighbour is still your neighbour.
"Let us be people. Let us reach out to one another. Let us share together. There is no need for violence. Your neighbour is your neighbour regardless of their ethnicity, their religion, their colour. My call to all Kenyans, wherever you may be - watching us on TV this evening, listening to us on the radio - please reach out to your neighbour. Shake their hand. Say 'this election is over. Regardless of whom you voted for, you are still my neighbour, you are still my brother, you are still my sister'. And let us move forward together. Asanteni sana," concluded Kenyatta, drawing a thunderous applause.
From then on, it was the beginning of celebrations for president-elect Kenyatta and co. and his supporters across the country and beyond.
But while it is jubilations on the winning side, it remains the opposite mood amongst Odinga's support base amid calls for calm and heightened security.
Kenyan security forces deploy in Kisumu minutes after the announcement of the reelection of incumbent Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta