by Christine Lagat and Chrispinus Omar
NAIROBI, March 9 (Xinhua) -- The incoming Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, has a herculean task of meeting hopes and aspirations of the country's 40 million people as the east African largest economy enters a new dispensation after a hotly contested general election.
The 51-year-old Kenyatta, son of the founding president, was declared the 4th president of Kenya after meeting the constitutional threshold to win presidency in a competitive poll.
The chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Isaack Hassan said Kenyatta secured 50.07 percent of total votes and attained more than 25 percent in at least 32 out of 47 counties required to avoid a run-off.
He defeated his closest rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whose advisor said before the announcement that he will not concede defeat and will move to Supreme Court to challenge the "flawed electoral process." Odinga is scheduled to hold a news conference later on Saturday.
The international community, local business and professional elites and ordinary Kenyans, shared the view that the new president faces a monumental task of uniting the country, inspiring investor confidence alongside spelling out a clear roadmap on transforming the country.
"We are at a critical phase in the country and everyone is looking up to the new president to spell his vision for the future, " Political scientist, Adams Oloo told Xinhua on Saturday.
"As he promised during the campaigns, Kenyatta should fast- track the implementation of a raft of proposals on lifting the economy, strengthening governance and rule of law, promoting national unity and boosting our image overseas."
Ordinary Kenyans who spoke to Xinhua on Saturday were optimistic on the country's future thanks to a free, fair and transparent poll that ushered in a new president, members of the national assembly and county governors.
The millions of Kenyans cast their ballot on March 4 in the general elections which were broadly peaceful but marred by technical hitches. The east African nation tried to restore its image of stable democracy after the bloody violence following disputed 2007 polls killed more than 1,200 people and displaced up to 650,000 people.
Despite isolated cases of technical hitches that delayed the tallying of votes, Kenyans remained peaceful and were united in their quest to uphold sobriety and a sense of nationhood to deter eruption of civil disruptions that were witnessed in the 2007 general election.
"Now that the people have spoken, the next step is to steer the country forward in terms of economic development, fighting negative ethnicity and youth unemployment. We hope the new president will rise up to the occasion and fulfill a lengthy wish list from citizens," said a community mobilizer, Paul Njoroge in Nairobi.
Njoroge spoke to Xinhua as he joined a group of jubilant citizens who marched along a major highway in Nairobi to cerebrate Kenyatta's victory.
Amid joyous cerebration across the country, Kenyans still keep in mind that the hard part has just began due to monumental challenges facing the country including poverty, illiteracy, high disease burden and insecurity.
A vegetable trader, Jane Nyambura, was emphatic that once the dust is settled, it will not be a walk in the park for the new president who must be prepared to rise above party, ethnic and other partisan interests to offer a credible leadership that inspires every Kenyan.
"Uhuru Kenyatta is a President for all Kenyans and what we desire is to have a unique leadership that will chart a new path for this country. The new president should not be carried away by the current euphoria bearing in mind that more work is ahead," Nyambura told Xinhua.
Small scale traders like Nyambura expected the new president to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.
As for Daudi Sonkoyo, a shopkeeper in a low income Nairobi suburb, economic growth and provision of basic services should trump political machinations.
"Most Kenyan small scale business owners are striving to eke out a living despite many setbacks including declining purchasing power among citizens, insecurity, and poor infrastructure. The operating licenses too are quite prohibitive and it is our prayer that the new government will address those challenges," Sonkoyo said.
Kenya has defied doomsayers to conduct a peaceful election that installed new leadership at the executive and legislative arms of government.
Held under a new constitutional dispensation, the Kenyan polls were unique, highly competitive and expensive but analysts were emphatic that the price was worth paying for charting a new path for the country.
"There is no denying the fact that as a country, we have started on a promising note. We conducted peaceful election and the systems are in place to midwife the birth of a new republic," remarked a prominent Nairobi lawyer, Charles Kanjama.
Kanjama said during an appearance at national television that Kenya had raised the bar in the advancement of democratic ideals that will be envied in the entire region.
"We are hopeful that the new president will accelerate the reform momentum, reinvent the government and implement policies that promote economic growth," said Kanjama.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) whose flagbearer is Prime Minister Raila Odinga has cautioned Kenyans to avoid premature celebrations and await for the outcome of the issues they have raised with IEBC.
"We urge Kenyans to wait for the IEBC to declare the final results and stop premature celebrations as verification of the final tally is underway," CORD's National Elections Board Chairman Franklin Bett said in a brief statement before the official announcement.
The historic elections are being watched closely by both local and international poll monitors who have said the election was credible and called on the political leadership to maintain peace as they await the official results from the electoral body.
The Monday polls were the very first to be held since the 2007/ 2008 post election violence, when, within a 7-week period following the polls, and as a direct consequence of the contested results, thousands of civilians were victims of serious crimes, including killings, sexual and gender based violence, forced internal displacements, destruction of properties.
The elections are important also because these elections will be the very first to be organized under Kenya's 2010 Constitution, which provides for safeguards against unfair, insecure, corrupted, non transparent or inefficiently administrated elections.