Opinion: Kenya needs peace and unity | Africa | DW | 11.03.2013
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Africa

Opinion: Kenya needs peace and unity

What does the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as president mean for Kenya. What lies ahead for him as he faces trial in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity? Andrea Schmidt weighs the responsibilities he faces.

It was a gambit that paid off. Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the Kenya's founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, joined forces and went on the election trail with his main rival William Ruto.

Both have been indicted at the International Criminal Court in the Hague on charges of crimes against humanity and that makes the outcome of this election bizarre.

The pair are accused of spearheading the violence that erupted after the disputed 2007 elections and left more than 1,200 dead. Hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.

Schmidt, Andrea. Foto DW/Per Henriksen 18.10.2012

Andrea Schmidt is the head of DW's Kiswahili service

Traditionally, most Kenyans choose their political representatives from their own ethnic groups. This election was no different.

Political party programs were only of secondary interest. Many Kenyans profit from this arrangement because politicians elected to high office generally favor their own ethnic group when making key political and business-related appointments.

Kenyatta belongs to the largest ethnic group in Kenya, the Kikuyu. His running mate, William Ruto, is a member of the Kalenjin, the fourth largest ethnic group in the country.

Under the umbrella of their "Jubilee Alliance", the two leaders, known as "Uhuruto," campaigned together.

Their aim was to prevent the second leading candidate for the presidency, Raila Odinga, a member of the Luo ethnic group, from winning.

This was the third time Raila Odinga had run for the presidency. He felt he was cheated out of victory during his second attempt in 2007. Following this latest defeat, he is preparing to file a petition with Kenya's Supreme Court.

It is important that the court clears up allegations of vote-rigging and that all Kenyans accept the elections results. The stability and unity of the nation and national harmony must be preserved.

Kenyatta is the fourth and youngest president of Kenya. Not only Kenyans, but the whole world is watching his moves closely.

He will have to prove that he is the president of all Kenyans and not just of his ethnic group. He must also keep his alliance with William Ruto in a state of good repair and press ahead with reforms envisaged under new constitution.

Particularly crucial is the reform of the police, who are accused of brutal human rights offenses which have so far gone unpunished.

The election victory for 51-year-old Kenyatta, who studied politics and economics at the University of Amherst in the United States, could have grave diplomatic and economic consequences.

German chancellor Angela Merkel's Africa Commissioner, Günter Nooke, has emphasized that Kenyatta along with others charged at the ICC, or in other court of law, are innoncent until proven guilty.

The trials which were originally scheduled for April have now been moved back to May for Ruto and July for Kenyatta.

A conviction could put a country that is highly dependent on tourism in a precarious position.

Kenya, which share a border with Somalia, is regarded as highly important for the stability of the entire region, especially in the fight against Islamic militants al-Shabaab.

Kenya could follow Sudan in becoming a pariah state. Sudan is the only country with a president who faces an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.

Apart from the upcoming trial against Kenyatta and Ruto, the unjust distribution of land could be one of the biggest challenge for the new president.

Dispute over land use have led to many deaths in Kenya. Kenyatta's family owns not only huge tracts of land but also the largest dairy company in the country, 5-star hotels, banks and media outlets.

Uhuru Kenyatta's father, the first president after the independence, did not only reverse land expropriation from colonial rule, but also handed his ethnic group large amounts of land, which originally belonged to Kalenjin, Luo and Kamba ethnic groups.

Uhuru must now show that he is the president of all Kenyans. He may be regarded as a hero by his supporters, but other ethnic groups look on him as a symbol of the country's elite.

On gaining independence 50 years ago, Kenyans shouted "Harambee" meaning "we are together." The onus is on Kenyatta to put this into practice.

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