By Paul Ohia, with agency reports
Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as Kenyan president Tuesday amidst cheers from tens of thousands of people in Nairobi at the ceremony, which was the first of its kind since the country adopted a new constitution following deadly post-election riots in 2007.
Many African heads of states attended the ceremony including President Goodluck Jonathan who was accompanied by the acting Governor of Taraba State, Alhaji Garba Umar, Senator Emmanuel Paulker and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed.
Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, a hero of independence, took his oath with the same bible his father used.
“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 principles of mutual respect and reciprocity,” Kenyatta said in a speech, delivered after taking the oath.
Those remarks would likely reassure the West which urged him to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Reuters news agency reported Tuesday.
Western diplomats said they would take a “pragmatic” approach to contacts but much would depend on the level of cooperation with the court.
The peaceful transition of power has already helped rebuild Kenya’s reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies, after the violence five years ago when 1,200 were killed.
Analysts say the ICC row may have drawn more votes for Kenyatta.
Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni told the crowd at the ceremony in a Nairobi stadium that: “I want to salute the Kenyan voters on ... the rejection of the blackmail by the International Criminal Court.”
Museveni, who often accuses the West of using aid to interfere in African politics, said: “The usual opinionated and arrogant actors” had tried to use the court to “install leaders of their choice in Africa.”
United States and European countries sent ambassadors to Kenyatta’s inauguration, a level of representation diplomats said was not unusual and in line with their contacts policy.
“(Western powers) find themselves in a very difficult position,” said Kenya expert Daniel Branch at Britain’s Warwick University. “My sense is that everyone will find some method of accommodation.”
Many Kenyans hope Kenyatta will now deliver on a promise to be a president for all and not just work for his own ethnic group, a practice they have come to expect from politicians.
“I will lead all Kenyans, those who vote for me and those who voted for our competitors,” Kenyatta said, outlining policies that ranged from job creation to improvements of infrastructure to providing laptops for school children.
Kenyatta, a 51-year-old former finance minister whose family controls a sprawling business empire, campaigned heavily on his ability to deliver faster economic growth and help swathes of the poor in the nation of more than 40 million people.
“This is a new beginning,” said Elija Toroitich, a 56-year-old farmer at the stadium who voted for Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, also facing ICC charges. “We expect a lot from them due to the pledges they made in their manifesto.”