Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta secured a second term in office, the election commission announced on Friday, but the opposition rejected the result saying the process was undermined by fraud.
Kenyatta got 54.3 percent of Tuesday’s vote, ahead of rival Raila Odinga who secured 44.7 percent, according to figures released by election commission head Wafula Chebukati. Nearly 80 percent of the 19 million registered voters cast their ballots.
Many Kenyans fear a repeat of the violence that followed the 2007 contested election, when about 1,200 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced as protests over the result led to ethnic killings.
Speaking after the result was announced, Kenyatta offered an olive branch to the opposition, urging national unity and peace.
“I reach out to you, I reach out to all your supporters,” Kenyatta said in comments directed at Odinga. “To our brothers, our worthy competitors, we are not enemies, we are all citizens of the same republic.”
Earlier on Friday, the opposition, led by Odinga, who has lost the last two elections amid complaints of fraud, said it rejected the process after its complaints had not been addressed.
Odinga’s camp has said figures released by the commission since Tuesday’s vote were “fictitious” and that “confidential sources” within the commission had provided figures showing Odinga had a large lead in the race.
The election commission rejected the claims, pointing out they contained basic mathematical errors.
Police had beefed up security across much of Kenya – particularly in opposition strongholds in the west and parts of Nairobi – in anticipation of the announcement of the election result on Friday.
Kenya is the leading economy in East Africa and any instability would be likely to ripple through the region.
Odinga is a member of the Luo, an ethnic group from the west of the country that has long said it is excluded from power. Kenyatta is from the Kikuyu group, which has supplied three of four presidents since Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963.
International observers have given the thumbs-up to the vote and U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec issued a statement on behalf of the diplomatic community calling for any complaints to be channeled through the courts, not street protests.
As well as a new president, Kenyans also elected new lawmakers and local representatives. Some of those races have also been disputed, leading to violence in Garissa and Tana River counties.