Nairobi, Kenya –
A US congressional delegation has met with Kenya’s newly elected president and the opposition figure who is likely to challenge his electoral defeat in court in the latest electoral crisis for East Africa’s most stable democracy.
The visiting US politicians met with President-elect William Ruto on Thursday, according to a tweet from Ruto.
The delegation also met with Raila Odinga and discussed the development of the elections and relations between Kenya and the US, according to Odinga’s spokesman.
The new US ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman, said the delegation led by Senator Chris Coons will also meet with outgoing Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been publicly silent since the largely peaceful elections on August 9.
Ruto is Kenyatta’s vice president, but the two fell out years ago, with Kenyatta backing opposition figure Raila Odinga in the election.
Odinga has said he is exploring “all constitutional and legal options” to challenge his narrow electoral loss. His campaign has a week from Monday’s declaration of Ruto’s victory to go to the Supreme Court, which then has 14 days to rule. Odinga has urged his supporters to remain calm in a country with a history of post-election violence.
Kenya’s electoral commission publicly split amid chaos minutes before Monday’s statement, with commissioners accusing each other of misconduct. The four commissioners who opposed Monday’s declaration were appointed by Kenyatta last year.
The split came as a shock to many Kenyans after an election widely regarded as the most transparent in the country, with results from more than 46,000 polling stations posted online for the public to follow. Public tallies, including one by a local election watchdog group, added a Ruto victory with just over 50% of the vote.
The political transition in Kenya will have a significant impact in the East African region, where Kenyatta had been working with the US to try to mediate the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia and promote peace efforts between Rwanda and the Congo. Ruto in his public comments this week has focused on domestic issues, not regional ones.
Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his delegation have already visited Cape Verde and Mozambique and are expected to visit Rwanda, where tensions in the Congo and human rights should be on the agenda after the Secretary of State’s visit. Anthony Blinken to Kigali. In the past week.
Ruto, 55, appealed to Kenyans in making the choice over economic and non-ethnic differences that have long marked the country’s politics with sometimes deadly results. He portrayed himself as an outsider from humble beginnings who challenged the political dynasties of Kenyatta and Odinga, whose parents were Kenya’s first president and vice president.
Odinga, 77, has pursued the presidency for a quarter of a century. He is known as a fighter and was detained for years in the 1980s for his push for multi-party democracy. He was also a supporter of Kenya’s groundbreaking 2010 constitution.