Drama, disappointment in Nairobi as Ruto wins Kenyan election

On the eve of the August 9 elections, Joyce Achieng stood for hours outside the town hall centre at Kamukunji in the heart of Kibera, in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The 41-year-old mother of 10 went home only to cook for her children in the morning before returning the next evening and repeating the cycle until Monday, she said.

She was ready to spend another week celebrating if former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, her candidate for president and a massive favourite in Kibera, won, she told Al Jazeera on Monday afternoon.

Just after 6pm (15:00 GMT), Wafula Chebukati, chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), announced that Deputy President William Ruto had won the election with 50.49 percent of the vote to Odinga’s 48.85 percent.

Achieng and hundreds of others took to the streets of the densely populated slum, home to an estimated 250,000 people, to protest. “I can’t talk to you,” she said, her voice hoarse from all the screaming and wailing. “My voice is gone. I can’t speak.”

Beside her, Maureen Akinyi’s voice was loud and her speech was succinct. “They steal [the election] from us all the time,” the Kibera resident told Al Jazeera. “This time, no Raila, no Kenya.”

Around them, there were bonfires and youths hitting zinc walls with rods and sticks, angered by the turn of events.

Their disappointment reverberated across many parts of Nairobi, widely considered an Odinga stronghold. But it was especially strong in Kibera, which until 2013 was part of the Langata constituency that the former prime minister represented in parliament for many years.

Residents said he has been crucial in the push against their eviction from the slum. They also said the town hall square hosted many strategy meetings in the ’80s for Odinga and fellow comrades in the struggle to end single-party politics in Kenya.

In 1991, their struggle ended in triumph as Daniel arap Moi, president at the time, reinstituted a multi-party democracy.

Seven years later, when he won another term as president, the second runner-up was Odinga, who won only 10 percent of the votes in that election.

Subsequent attempts in 2007, 2013 and 2017 also ended in failure for Odinga.

A 2018 truce with longtime foe President Uhuru Kenyatta, who handed him two of those defeats, was seen as a chance for the serial aspirant to finally find success this August.

Opinion polls predicted a win for Odinga ahead of the elections, and some media houses that collated results from the IEBC’s portal also placed him in the lead in the days after the election.

However, he and the incumbent president were outwitted by Ruto, who got his first break as a popular campaigner for President arap Moi in 1992, but was an Odinga ally and agriculture minister in the 2008 coalition government – where the latter was prime minister.

Ruto, who called himself a hustler, promised to revive the economy and give more opportunities to everyday citizens, a message that resonated in a country with high unemployment and massive debt.

He referenced his poor beginnings as a chicken seller, in contrast to Odinga and Uhuru, whose fathers became the first vice president and president of Kenya, respectively, back in 1963 when the country became independent from British colonial rule.