Britain has urged Kenyans to remain calm following the electoral commission declaring Uhuru Kenyatta the winner of a hotly contested presidential vote. Defeated contender Raila Odinga is refusing to concede.
Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta barely avoided a runoff vote, winning 50.07 percent of ballots cast, according to Kenya's election commission.
"I therefore declare Uhuru Kenyatta the duly elected president of the Republic of Kenya," the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Issack Hassan, announced. Kenyatta is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president.
According to Kenya's electoral law, a candidate must win more than 50 percent of the vote in order to avoid a second round election.
But Odinga called on supporters to avoid violence: "Any violence now could destroy this nation forever, but it would not serve anyone's interests," he said.
Britain too urged Kenyans to show restraint following the election outcome.
“I urge all sides to show patience and restraint, to accept defeat or take any disputes to the courts,” the UK Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, told news agency, AFP.
Praising the Kenyan people on a peaceful vote so far, Simmonds added, “Kenyans have expressed their sovereign will, and I congratulate all the candidates who have been successful.
Simmonds said he was confident any disputes relating to the allegation of vote tampering would be dealt with “swiftly and fairly” by the judiciary.
“I appeal to all parties to maintain the same peaceful and democratic spirit that we have witnessed so far,” he added.
Isaack Hassan, head of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, urged all politicians and citizens to respect the results, "We urge all of you again to recall our commitment to the rule of law ... there can be victory without victims," he said.
The official result was originally scheduled to be announced on Wednesday, but the failure of a new computerized voting system forced election officials to deliver the ballots to the capital Nairobi, where they had to be counted by hand.
Fraud appeal rejected
Odinga's team had asked for the vote counting to be stopped, accusing Kenyatta of vote fraud. But a three-judge panel rejected the appeal, saying that only the Supreme Court had jurisdiction over the matter. And international election observers have said that the election was conducted transparently and fairly.
Kenyatta's victory could complicate Nairobi's relations with Western countries. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of helping to instigate post-election violence in 2007 that killed at least 1,000 people. Kenya is now the second African country to have a head of state wanted by the ICC, the other being Sudan.
Kenya is an important Western ally, contributing to the fight against Islamist militants in East Africa, particularly in neighboring Somalia.
Barring any legal challenges, Kenyatta will be sworn into office on March 26 as Kenya's fourth president since the country gained independence from Britain.
jlw/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)