Considering the vast violence that accompanied Kenyan elections in 2007, observers are concluding that five or six deaths in the aftermath of the Kenyan courts upholding Uhuru Kenyatta’s election as president was a measure of progress.
Some published reports said five people were killed in riots following the court ruling, while other reports said at least six were killed. But as a whole, the country remained mostly peaceful after the court decision.
“There is tension obviously, but with the deployment of officers we have done we don’t anticipate anything,” said Moses Ombati, the deputy police chief for Nairobi, who blamed the riots on rowdy youth.
Ombati said perhaps the presence of armed police would deter illegal protests like those that erupted on Saturday immediately after the court’s ruling.
After Prime Minister Raila Odinga lost in 2007, when he ran against outgoing president Mwai Kibaki, the nation erupted in its worst violence since Independence. More than 1,100 were killed and several hundred thousand were forced to flee their homes.
The newly elected president, Kenyatta, and his running mate William Ruto, both face trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity over their alleged role in planning the 2007-2008 post-election violence. They deny the charges.
Kenyans gave Odinga partial credit for the relative calm, saying that the people had more trust in the reformed judiciary but also because Odinga quickly accepted the verdict despite his disappointment.
“The court has now spoken. I wish the president-elect, honourable Uhuru Kenyatta, and his team well,” Odinga said.
“Our leader has conceded defeat, who are we to take to the streets?” Elijah Onyango, 27, a delivery man in Kisumu, told Al Jazeera.
But some Odinga supporters reacted angrily to the loss, engaging the police in conflict on the streets.
Two people were killed and five seriously injured in riots in Kisumu, a city in west Kenya that strongly backed Odinga.
Kenyatta will be sworn in on April 9. He said on Saturday that he would be a president for all Kenyans. In a televised address, he urged them to move past the election and build a nation “at peace with itself.”
“I want to assure all Kenyans … that my government will work with and serve all Kenyans without any discrimination whatsoever,” Kenyatta said.