NAIROBI, Kenya — The head of Kenya’s electoral commission announced on Monday that William Ruto, the country’s vice president, had won the presidential election. But the validity of the result was thrown into doubt because of a statement minutes earlier by a majority of the election commissioners that they could not stand by the outcome.
In a speech just after the announcement, Mr. Ruto said: “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya. I want to thank God for getting us to this point. I want to thank God that today we have concluded this election.”
He described the vote as “a very historic, democratic occasion that moves our country to the next level.”
“I know many are wondering, especially those who have done many things against us, I want to tell them they have nothing to fear,” he added. “There is no room for vengeance, there is no room for looking back, we are looking to the future.”
The election pitted two of the country’s political heavyweights against each other: Mr. Ruto is the country’s vice president, while Raila Odinga is a veteran opposition leader who has lost four previous election runs.
Kenya is East Africa’s biggest economy, and it is pivotal not only for the stability of the region, but as a hub for trade and security. The presidential race, Kenya’s closest since the country’s first truly competitive election 20 years ago, is also being closely scrutinized by Western and regional allies as a key test for democracy in one of Africa’s powerhouse nations.
Mr. Ruto, 55, also a wealthy businessman, cast himself as a champion of Kenya’s “hustler nation” — the disillusioned, mostly young strivers struggling to gain a foothold.
A vice chairwoman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Juliana Cherera, speaking on behalf of four of the country’s seven commissioners said the panel could not take ownership of the results because of the “opaque nature” of the election’s handling.
Celebrations broke out in Eldoret town, a Ruto stronghold, immediately after the announcement, with a deafening cacophony of cars and motorcycle horns, whistling and screaming filling the streets in the downtown area. The crowd waved posters with Mr. Ruto’s face and donned yellow T-shirts and scarves in line with his party’s official colors. Many of those celebrating also waved leaves of the sinendet plant, which locals use to garland winners. “We won!” they screamed. “Ruto did it!”
Declan Walsh and Matthew Mpoke Bigg reported from Nairobi, and Abdi Latif Dahir from Eldoret, Kenya.