Congolese President t Felix Tshisekedi is the only member of the East African Community who is yet to comment on the election of William Ruto as Kenya’s president-elect.
Mr Ruto was declared winner of the polls, defeating Raila Odinga, an ally of President Tshisekedi. Mr Odinga has since disputed the results.
President Tshisekedi is also a close ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had endorsed Mr Odinga.
Earlier in the year, Mr Ruto referred to Congolese as people who wear high-waist trousers, dance and sing and who do not even have “a single cow”. It took an apology from Kenya’s ambassador to the DRC, George Masafu, to calm down an irate public. Mr Ruto also apologised later for the gaffe.
Yet Mr Ruto may be a change of course for President Tshisekedi. Mr Odinga has been a proponent of infrastructure projects, including the Grand Inga Dam, while serving as High Representative for Infrastructure at the African Union. Some officials in Kinshasa hoped for an Odinga presidency, seeking to perpetuate the networks of influence woven by President Tshisekedi, especially at the level of the EAC.
Some claim that Mr Ruto has ties with former president Joseph Kabila. These claims have not been substantiated, though.
“Here is President [Joseph] Kabila’s friend who has just won the Kenyan elections hands down. There will be many changes in the region,” wrote India Omari, a senior member of Joseph Kabila’s party, referring to President Tshisekedi’s predecessor.
Will this put to question the agreements between Kenya and the DRC signed in April 2021?
According to analysts, the camaraderie that has characterised relations between the DRC and Kenya due to the closeness between Uhuru Kenyatta and Felix Tshisekedi could end. However, the fidelity to those MoUs may remain.
“The future portends difficult relations between Ruto and Tshisekedi, who has been largely supported by Uhuru Kenyatta in his quest for stability in the eastern regions,” wrote Econews, a news outlet in Kinshasa. Econews predicts that Mr Odinga’s failure in the election will have an impact at the regional level.
Mr Ruto, though, may stay close to DRC. Kenya’s Equity Bank and KCB Bank have interests in the country, and the abundant natural resources in the Congo are attracting more private sector players.
In Tanzania, Mr Ruto is still viewed as an “unknown” despite spending the past 10 years as deputy president under Uhuru Kenyatta. His public profile in Tanzania is far less than that of Raila Odinga, who has visited regularly in his capacity as a prominent opposition leader over the years and demonstrated an especially strong rapport with former president John Magufuli.
“I congratulate the people of Kenya on their peaceful general election and the subsequent announcement of Dr William Ruto as president-elect,” Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu said on her official Twitter handle. “We look forward to continue working together with our brothers and sisters in Kenya to strengthen our historically close ties. Tuko pamoja.”
Tanzania’s business community has taken a wait-and-see stance in anticipation of a possible delay to the new president’s swearing-in, as expected petitions against the poll results are arbitrated in Kenyan courts.
The Tanzania Private Sector Foundation has refrained from commenting on its expectations after Mr Ruto’s announced victory despite several requests from The EastAfrican this week.
Stocks and money markets reacted to the Kenyan electoral conclusion, reflecting a degree of uncertainty over the past week. According to the Bank of Tanzania, the mean rate of exchange between the Kenyan and Tanzanian shillings dropped from 19.31 on Monday morning to 19.29 on Wednesday. It was 19.40 on July 29.
The Kenyan shilling has gradually depreciated against the Tanzanian currency since August 2021, when it stood at 20.93.