William Ruto was sworn in as Kenya’s president on Tuesday after narrowly winning the Aug. 9 election in East Africa’s most stable democracy, and quickly signaled that his leadership would be a strongly Christian one.
The Supreme Court last week rejected a challenge by losing candidate and longtime opposition figure Raila Odinga to the official results, completing a markedly peaceful election.
The 55-year-old Ruto had been the deputy to departing President Uhuru Kenyatta but had a bitter split with Kenyatta that left the two not speaking for months at a time. On Tuesday, the audience cheered as the two shook hands, and again as Kenyatta handed over the instruments of power.
Ruto, who had dropped to his knees in tears and prayer when the court upheld his win, knelt on the stage minutes after his swearing-in during an extended sermon. “A chicken seller to a president,” intoned the pastor, highlighting Ruto’s humble youth.
Ruto’s first tweet quoted Psalms: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
The event began with some chaos. Scores of people were crushed and injured as they forced their way into the packed stadium. A medic said a fence fell down after people pushed it and about 60 were injured, though the number may rise.
“We had to treat some with minor injuries. Most of them were rushed to the main hospital in Nairobi,” Peter Muiruri said. There were no reports of deaths.
People tried to dodge baton-wielding security forces. Some failed. “I was beaten by the police after trying to get inside,” said one witness, Benson Kimutai.
Ruto is taking power in a country heavily burdened by debt that will challenge his efforts to fulfill sweeping campaign promises made to Kenya’s poor.