South African president Jacob Zuma opens the South African Parliament as he speaks in Cape Town, February 14, 2013.
South African president Jacob Zuma opens the South African Parliament as he speaks in Cape Town, February 14, 2013.

PRETORIA - South Africa's president heartily congratulated Kenya's people for voting without violence, and extended his congratulations to the president-elect, who won by a razor-thin margin. The warm welcome from Africa's economic superpower bodes well for the East African nation.

President Jacob Zuma on Saturday warmly welcomed president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta, who barely squeaked by to win Kenya's election, according to preliminary results.

Kenyatta's small margin was just enough to let him win outright over Prime Minister Raila Odinga and avoid a runoff.

Zuma congratulated both Kenyatta and the people of his nation.

"Really I'd like to congratulate, firstly, the people of Kenya, who have gone into the polls and voted, and as you say in democracy, the majority wins the day," he said. "The fact that they voted and they've decided to choose their leader and he has been declared the winner, I'd like to congratulate him as well for winning elections. You know that in the last elections the conclusion was rather a little bit problematic, although the elections were rare. We are happy today that the announcement has been made and the people of Kenya are accepting this."

The vote count dragged on for days longer than expected because of technical problems. But international observers have said the vote was largely transparent and credible - a stark contrast from a 2007 presidential vote that was marred by violence.

Uhuru Kenyatta

But five years after an election that tore the east African nation apart, this election, though peaceful, was not free of complications. Kenyatta is facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court over his alleged role in post-election violence in the 2007 vote.

Zuma said The Hague's indictment of Kenyatta would not affect relations with South Africa.

"No. Why should we have problems? I mean, I mean, the ICC has indicted Kenyatta. That's one thing... The people of Kenya voted for Kenyatta. It's their decision. If you say Kenyatta is convicted, it would be a different matter," he said.

Those weeks of post-election violence in early 2008 left more than 1,100 people dead and 600,000 displaced.

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