In a historic move, Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the results of the country’s recent presidential election that took place early last August. Instead, a new election day will take place sometime within the next 60 days. The Supreme Court’s decision came in response to a petition from the opposing candidates, Raila Amolo Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, which claimed that the election was not properly run in accordance with the Kenyan Constitution. After investigating the case, the court came to the conclusion that the election commission “committed illegalities and irregularities,” which caused the court to order a new vote to take place. The instant fallout is that, at the very least, the current President Uhuru Kenyatta will have to wait a little longer before his re-election is made official again. However, this move, made by Kenya’s Supreme Court, may set a much bigger precedent for the future.
This was the first time ever in Africa’s history that a presidential election was annulled, despite the continent’s long history of political corruption. For instance, just recently in 2016, Kenya’s neighbour, Uganda, held a presidential election that resulted in their President, Yoweri Museveni, being re-elected once more, thus extending his reign of power in office to be over 30 years. At 71 years of age, it is hard to believe that Museveni genuinely has had enough support to retain the presidency for 30 years. Nonetheless, in spite of the obvious illegalities occurring over the course of the election, such as voter intimidation and voter suppression, the Uganda Supreme Court failed to challenge the election results. Moreover, while Uganda technically does have a democratic government, many who live in the country say that it is actually a dictatorship.
With that said, the ruling from Kenya’s Supreme Court was certainly shocking and sent a strong message to the rest of Africa, but it also showed the power the court has in protecting the integrity of the country’s democratic system and processes. Equally as important is that the resolution is one that is peaceful, as according to the Washington Post, about 50-60 percent of sub-Saharan African elections result in some form of violence. In addition, Raila Odinga called the moment “a historic day for the people of Kenya, and by extension the people of Africa,” with many foreign ambassadors praising the decision as a win for democracy. Nevertheless, while there is no doubt that the court’s ruling is one that will improve the nation’s election processes and democratic system, hopefully, the decision will also mark the beginning of a change in political culture for all of Africa as well.
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