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Ruto: Presidential race between Raila and I was so close

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader Raila Odinga (L) sharing a moment with President William Ruto at a past event. [File, Standard]

President William Ruto has hailed Kenya’s democratic system, saying that despite a razor-thin margin between the number of votes he garnered against Raila Odinga’s tally, the strong democratic structures allowed him to be sworn into office as Kenya’s fifth Head of State.

Dr Ruto got 7.18 million votes (50.49 per cent) against Odinga’s 6.94 million votes (48.85 per cent) in the August 9, 2022 presidential election.

Speaking in his inaugural address to a joint sitting of Parliament (the Senate and the National Assembly) on Thursday, the president said Kenya’s democracy has come of age, and that tribalism has gradually been losing its stranglehold on Kenya’s politics.

“The fact that the [2022 presidential] election was so close is an indication that what unites us (Kenyans) is always much more, greater than what divides us,” he said in his address at the Parliament Buildings in Nairobi on September 29.

“With the support of Kenyans, we have dislodged ethnicity as the central organising principle of our politics, thereby retiring for good the ethnic mobilisation and personality cults, together with their culture and practices of exclusion, discrimination, patronage, tribalism and nepotism,” said Dr Ruto.

The Head of State looked back at the political dynamics that played out in the run-up to the August 9, 2022 presidential election.

“The sitting deputy president (Ruto) became the candidate of the opposition and the leader of the opposition (Raila) became the candidate of government. As things would be, the opposition candidate won the election and became president and the president (Uhuru Kenyatta) became the leader of the opposition party. That’s the beauty of the democracy and it only happens in Kenya.”