Stadium packed ahead of Ruto’s swearing in as Kenyan President

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Kenya’s main sports stadium was packed to the rafters on Tuesday as supporters of Deputy President William Ruto waited for him to be sworn in as the country’s fifth President.

Ruto – a gifted orator known for keeping long working hours- will face a host of challenges when he takes over from Uhuru Kenyatta, including a surge in food and fuel prices, high unemployment and rising public debt.

“We want less and less government in people’s lives, and more and more services to the people of Kenya,” Rigathi Gachagua, Ruto’s deputy, told state-run KBC Television.

The capital Nairobi’s 60,000-seat Kasarani Sports Centre was packed by 5 am with Ruto’s supporters dressed in his party’s colours of yellow and green. They danced and waved miniature national flags as a band played music from the podium.

The National Police Service said in a tweet that the stadium was full and asked that no one else try to come.

“He is our fellow youth! I know he will bring us more opportunity,” said dancer Juma Dominic as he and his troupe warmed up before performing for the crowd.

Ruto has served as Kenyatta’s deputy since 2013, but they fell out after the 2017 election. Kenyatta backed opposition leader Raila Odinga to succeed him in the August election and denounced Ruto as unfit for office.

“Mr President-elect, as you walk the path to your inauguration and beyond, you will be president not just for those who voted for you but for all Kenyans,” Kenyatta said in an address on Monday evening, in which he wished Ruto well.

Deputy President Mabuza to attend inauguration of Kenya’s new President William Ruto

Kenya is a key Western ally in an unstable region and East Africa’s most wealthy and influential nation. It hosts the regional headquarters of many global companies and organisations.

Odinga had filed a court challenge accusing Ruto of cheating his way to victory but the Supreme Court swept aside his petition alongside several others. It was the fifth time that Odinga, 77, had stood for election.

Odinga accepted the court’s decision, helping avoid the kind of violent protests that marred the elections he lost in 2007 and 2017.

Odinga said on Monday, however, that he would not attend Ruto’s inauguration and that he did not believe the election had been free and fair.

Ruto, a 55-year-old former roadside chicken seller who is now a wealthy businessman, portrayed himself as an underdog “hustler” battling the elite during the campaign.

Odinga and Kenyatta are the sons of the nation’s first vice president and president respectively.

That message resonated with chronically underemployed youths and families squeezed by poverty and rampant corruption, which Kenyatta publicly acknowledged he was unable to rein in.

Members of Ruto’s team have also faced accusations of corruption.

In July, a court ordered Gachagua to repay $1.7 million which it determined were the proceeds of corruption.

Gachagua and Ruto dismissed the judgement as politically motivated.

William Ruto briefs the media following Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Kenyan elections victory