Nairobi — President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed on Tuesday to be the leader of all Kenyans and to work to unite the country after a bruising and drawn-out election process that ended with his swearing-in.
"I will devote my time and energy to build bridges, to unite and bring prosperity," he said as he started his second term faced with a large portion of the population that rejects his election.
Kenyatta’s calls for unity echo those he made throughout an election campaign in which he also launched searing attacks on the judiciary and opposition.
The message is, however, sorely needed in Kenya, as more than four months’ political upheaval have left the nation more divided than before.
An election on August 8, won by Kenyatta, was annulled in a historic decision by the Supreme Court, which ordered a rerun on October 26.
Kenyatta won that poll with 98%, as his rival, Raila Odinga, boycotted the vote, vowing it would not be free or fair.
"The election we have just concluded is probably one of the longest ever held in our continent’s history," Kenyatta said. He declared that his inauguration — on the 123rd day since the country first went to vote — marked "the end, and I repeat the end, of our electoral process".
"It has been a trying time but once again Kenyans have shown their resilience in calming the passions that accompany political competition."
Kenyatta urged all leaders to serve the nation regardless of political affiliation and said he would dedicate all his energy to building "unity and nationhood".
"Instead of division, I know that we can build a Kenya that prospers by rewarding hard work and leaving no one behind," he said.
He laid out his government’s vision for the next five years, including 100% universal healthcare coverage and the creation of jobs by focusing on the manufacturing sector.
As the country emerges from a prolonged drought, he vowed to invest in water towers and river ecosystems and to re-engineer the agricultural sector to cope with future dry spells.
Kenyatta announced that any African wishing to visit Kenya would be able to receive a visa at any port of entry, while members of the East African Community could work, do business and live in Kenya with only their identity card. The economic block includes war-torn South Sudan and troubled Burundi but not Somalia.
Kenyatta urged the nation to focus on building the economy rather than dwelling on politics that are divisive.
"No one eats politics. For the last 50 years, we have watched as the Asian economies have risen to wealth, while much of Africa has stagnated. The difference is that they used politics to create vibrant economies for their people," he said.
"In our case, we have pursued politics as an end in itself, rather than as a means to economic prosperity. This must end."