Kenya's president-elect William Ruto today pledged to extend "a hand of brotherhood" to his rivals after the Supreme Court upheld his victory in the 9 August presidential poll, following a legal battle with challenger Raila Odinga.
The 55-year-old will become Kenya's fifth president since independence from colonial ruler Britain when he is sworn in on 13 September.
"I extend a hand of brotherhood to all my competitors and to all their supporters. We are not enemies, we are Kenyans," Mr Ruto said in a speech following the court decision.
The verdict capped a prolonged political process, including an election campaign dominated by mudslinging and fake news, with many observers fearing that the dispute over the result would boil over into violence.
Mr Odinga tweeted that he would respect the ruling even though he disagreed with it, easing fears that Kenya would see any repeat of the violence that followed disputed votes in 2007 and 2017.
Mr Ruto struck a conciliatory tone, saying his government would work "to make Kenya a country for everyone".
"Our election and judicial institutions have won," he said.
As deputy president, William Ruto was widely expected to succeed outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, but found himself exiled to the sidelines when his boss struck an alliance with former foe Odinga, endorsing him for the top job.
A businessman with a rags-to-riches background and a shadowy reputation, Mr Ruto had styled himself as "hustler-in-chief" and champion of the downtrodden as Kenya grapples with an economic crisis.
Both Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga had vowed to respect the court's ruling, with memories still raw of deadly violence that marred previous election disputes in East Africa's most vibrant democracy.
In Mr Ruto's Rift Valley home village of Sugoi, large crowds of people were dancing in celebration, waving posters declaring "The 5th President" and thanking God for his victory in the close-fought election.
In other towns, people turned out wearing the bright yellow of Ruto's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, chanting, banging plastic buckets and blowing vuvuzelas.
"I am so happy, so happy," said Boniface Siene, 45, who works as a security agent and boda boda (motorcycle taxi) driver in the capital Nairobi.
"Now the country can move on. We want change and he will bring change. He will do a lot of good to our country."
The atmosphere was more sombre in the stronghold of defeated election rival Raila Odinga, who was licking his wounds after his fifth failed bid for the presidency.
Messages calling for peace were plastered on walls and pinned to poles as police patrolled the streets of Kisumu, where violent protests had broken out briefly following the announcement of the results last month.
Kenya had been on edge awaiting the Supreme Court ruling, with the country still haunted by deadly violence that erupted over previous poll disputes and now grappling with a cost of living crisis and crippling drought.
"We don't want trouble because we have realised we are the ones who suffer," said Nelima Atieno, a seller of second-hand clothes in Kisumu.
Minibus driver Kevin Omolo mirrored her views, telling AFP: "We don't want people to demonstrate."
"We can't change the verdict even though it is painful."
In Nairobi, Kenyans voiced hope that life could get back to normal after weeks of uncertainty.
Kenya is the most dynamic economy in East Africa but many are suffering deep hardship, with prices for basic goods skyrocketing and unemployment a major problem particularly among the youth.
"This decision is good for the country. I expected riots, but this announcement enables us to move on," said 30-year-old flower seller Caroline, adding: "We just want jobs."
Nicholas, a 30-year-old gardener, told AFP: "What we want is peace, and today, after the decision, it is really calm around. This decision will bring togetherness."
His view was echoed by Albert Ouma, a Ruto supporter in the coastal city of Mombasa.
"The Supreme Court has given a very good verdict, they have looked at the interest of the nation," he said.
"Kenyans should remain together and work towards building this nation."
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