Kenya’s election commission announced that Uhuru Kenyatta has won the Kenyan presidential election, but no matter the official outcome, the poll will be disputed and political violence will threaten the country. Kenyatta’s victory margin is wafer thin. He is reported to have secured only 0.03 per cent more than the 50 per cent threshold necessary for him to avoid a run-off with his main rival, Raila Odinga. Kenyatta’s Jubilee Alliance has already won a majority in the Kenyan senate and national assembly.

Odinga has already made it clear that he will challenge the outcome, alleging vote-rigging. The election has also been marred by technical glitches. Nevertheless, international observers seem set to declare the outcome a fair reflection of the will of the majority. This is good enough as few elections are without flaws.

Odinga is well within his rights to challenge the outcome and the legal channels exist for him to do so. But, both Kenyatta and Odinga must make sure that the protracted election process does not descend into violence. The last time the two faced-off was in Kenya’s 2007 election. Kenyatta is now facing charges of crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court, over allegations that he orchestrated violence after that election that is estimated to have left 1,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. Then – as now – Odinga claimed the presidential race had been rigged against him.

The international community, especially the African Union, must make sure Kenyatta’s trial goes ahead. The days of politicians being able to act with impunity and disregard for life, as they grasp for power, belong in the past. Even if he is found not guilty, Kenyatta and his co-accused must be subject to justice as a lesson to others who may be considering using violence to achieve power.

Both Kenyatta and Odinga must watch their rhetoric and language, as social and political tensions build, in the wake of the disputed election. If violence flares again, they will be judged harshly.