Uhuru Kenyatta vowed to promote peace, unity and economic development at his inauguration Tuesday as Kenya’s fourth president. Kenyatta and his deputy are taking power while facing charges at the International Criminal Court, which could complicate the country’s relations with the world community.
Kenyatta took the oath of office in an elaborate ceremony at the Moi International Sports Center outside Nairobi.
A host of African leaders watched the proceedings in VIP seating behind the dais, including Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The U.S. ambassador and the British high commissioner to Kenya also attended.
Vowing peace, unity
The 51-year-old son of Kenya’s founding president, a former finance minister and one of the country’s richest men, Kenyatta said his administration would focus on achieving peace and strengthening unity, following a divisive election.
“Today, work begins. The time has come not to ask what community we come from, but rather, what dreams we share. The time has come to ask not what political party we belong to, but rather what partnerships we can build,” said Kenyatta.
Outgoing president Mwai Kibaki handed over to Kenyatta the symbolic instruments of power - a sword and a copy of the constitution. Kibaki said he has “no doubt that the country is in good hands.”
Upcoming ICC trials
Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, are both facing charges at the International Criminal Court for crimes related to the deadly inter-ethnic violence that swept the country following the last vote in 2007.
In a statement released Tuesday, Human Rights Watch called on Kenya’s new leaders to cooperate with the ICC and to uphold their promise to attend their trials.
Western nations told Kenyans ahead of the vote that the election of two ICC indictees could complicate diplomatic relations. Kenyatta did not directly address the issue during his speech, though he and his supporters have, in the past, dismissed the warning as foreign interference.
In a speech at the inauguration, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni praised Kenyan voters for rejecting what he called “blackmail” by the ICC and accused external powers of using the international court to achieve a political agenda.
“They are now using it to install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate the ones they do not like,” said Museveni.
Following a new constitution
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta takes the oath of office as his wife Margaret holds a bible during the official swearing-in ceremony at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, April 9, 2013.
Traditional dancers entertain guests using drums before the official swearing-in ceremony of Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta at Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi, April 9, 2013.
Kenya's outgoing President Mwai Kibaki inspects the honor guard before the official swearing-in ceremony of President Uhuru Kenyatta at Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi, April 9, 2013.
Kenya's outgoing president Mwai Kibaki waves as he arrives for the inauguration of Uhuru Kenyatta at Kasarani stadium, Nairobi, April 9, 2013.
A traditional dancer leaves after entertaining guests before the official swearing-in ceremony of Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta, Nairobi, April 9, 2013.
Kenyatta will be the first president to govern under the new constitution, passed in 2010, and designed to decentralize power and to more equitably distribute funds among the country’s 47 counties.
Nairobi lawyer and political analyst Martin Oloo said implementation of the constitution will be a key test for the new administration.
“They must demonstrate to Kenyans that they believe in the constitution and in particular that they believe in devolution. Over the next couple of months we are going to see how that pans out," said Oloo. "Chances are that they are going to succeed or fail on how they support or interpret the constitution and, in particular, the issue of devolution.”
Kenyatta won last month's election by a razor thin margin. His nearest rival, outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga, challenged the results at the Supreme Court, alleging the vote counting was flawed.
After two weeks of court proceedings, the six justices ruled unanimously to uphold Kenyatta’s victory.