Kenyatta sworn in as new president of Kenya

2013-04-09 16:23

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Nairobi – Uhuru Kenyatta has been sworn in as the new president of Kenya in front of tens of thousands of people, including foreign heads of state, at a sports complex in Nairobi.

The large crowd erupted in cheers and waved Kenyan flags as Kenyatta (51) and his deputy William Ruto (46) took their oath of office and were handed the ceremonial instruments of power.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga signed them both into office, officially confirming the relatively young duo, wanted for trial at the International Criminal Court, as the new leaders of East Africa’s most important economy.

“We are open for business and we invite you to invest in our country,” Kenyatta said in an inauguration speech, pledging to diversify the economy.

The new president said he would work to ensure free access to healthcare within his first 100 days in office and would also launch a plan to give each primary school pupil a laptop computer.

Kenya is striving to become a key technology hub in Africa and has been investing in infrastructure like faster internet cables.

Ruto said he believes Kenya could be posting “double digit” growth figures within five years.

Mwai Kibaki (81) stepped down as president after reaching the two-term limit.

African leaders, including South African President Jacob Zuma and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni, were among those in attendance, along with representatives of Gulf Arab states and China.

Museveni, the only foreign dignitary to speak at the event, criticised the ICC.

He saluted Kenyans for their “rejection of the blackmail by the International Criminal Court and those who seek to abuse this institution for their own agenda”.

Unnamed foreign powers “are now using it to install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate the ones they do not like,” said Museveni, who has led Uganda since 1986.

All the ICC’s suspects since its founding in 2002 have been Africans, and analysts say the court, meant to target war criminals, is facing a crisis of confidence on the continent.

During campaigning ahead of elections in March, Western nations warned Kenya of consequences if ICC suspects were elected to high office. Most European nations only sent embassy staff to the inauguration.

Kenyatta and Ruto are to face trial before the court on charges of crimes against humanity over their alleged involvement in post-election ethnic violence in 2007-08, which left more than 1 000 people dead and displaced more than half a million.

They were on opposite sides during the last election and their joint ticket was used in campaigning as a symbol of overcoming the past. However, tribal alliances remain an important, though often detrimental, part of Kenyan politics.

“Kenyatta and Ruto should be held to their promises to attend their trials before the ICC,” said Elizabeth Evenson, an international law advisor with US-based Human Rights Watch.

In his inauguration speech Kenyatta did not specifically mention the ICC.

“I assure you again that under my leadership Kenya will strive to uphold our international obligations so long as these are founded on the well established principle of mutual respect and reciprocity,” he said.

Kenyatta - the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first post-independence leader - wants to forge tighter relationships with the world’s emerging powers, such as China.

He was sworn in holding the same Bible his father used to become prime minister 50 years ago when the British departed. He stood next to his wife as he took the oath of office.

His inauguration was to take place last month, but was delayed after election rival Raila Odinga challenged the vote’s official result in the courts. His petitions were ultimately rejected.

Kenya has some 42 million people, many of whom live in poverty, despite a rapidly growing economy.

High unemployment, corruption, tribalism, a lack of educational structures and an infrastructure deficit are among the key challenges Kenyatta faces as he starts his five-year term.

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