Yesterday, on Friday, September 1st, 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court set a precedent of unique and astronomical proportions, the likes of which has never been seen in the history of African Democracy. It nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the recently concluded presidential election last month and promptly ordered a new vote within 60 days. The six judge panel voted 4-2 in favour of the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, who had petitioned the court to challenge the win on grounds that the electronic systems were hacked and votes manipulated.
“[The election commission] failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution,” the judges said. It is important to note that they did not place any sort of blame on Kenyatta or his any of his affiliates. Announcing the verdict yesterday, Chief Justice David Maraga, part of the six judge bench said, “The declaration [of Kenyatta’s win] is invalid, null and void.
It was jubilation for Raila and his supporters nationwide. Speaking to Kenyan media, Raila said: “It’s a very historic day for the people of Kenya and by extension the people of Africa. For the first time in the history of African democratization, a ruling has been made by a court nullifying [the] irregular election of a president. This is a precedent-setting ruling.
Conversely, Uhuru and his own did not receive this ruling well, as was to be expected really. “I disagree with the ruling but I respect it,” said Kenyatta. He added that it was unfortunate that “six judges have decided to go against the will of the people.” “Five or six people cannot decide the fate of 45 million people. Kenyans will decide because this is the nature of democracy,” he added. This was an interesting statement for the President, considering he decides the fate of the 45 million people on a daily basis in that capacity. Granted, he has a team of people to help him but ultimately he is the final decision maker. He also forgets that it was a similar panel that threw out Raila’s petition back in 2013 and declared him president.
As I am sure Kenyans are wondering at the moment, what happens? In theory, it is simple enough. We go back to the polls within 60 days and elect a new president. In practice, it is not. Anyone watching the petition as it was being aired is now aware, the ruling aside, that IEBC is compromised or incompetent or both. Are Kenyans to trust this body once again after all these debacles since 2007? In fact, Raila wants to see legal action taken against IEBC. In its ruling, the Supreme Court found that aside from irregularities in the polls, there were also illegalities committed. Lawfully, they should be punished, and not be allowed to run another election.
It is interesting to see what changes will be made considering changes to the electoral body will have to be done by Uhuru and his government. I doubt NASA will much care for those changes much less accept them. Already there are calls for the UN to step in and run the elections. This also presents another challenge to the economic powerhouse of East Africa. The stock market took a crazy turn and undoubtedly businesses will suffer as more uncertainty looms in the nation for fear of violence. This precedent also opens the door for petitions across all levels from parties who feel aggrieved after the polls.
In the words of a Kenyan citizen: “Just when things were going back to normal, when we thought we dodged a bullet after August 8th, now this.” My answer to this is we should look back to what we did on and after August 8th. We were a mature nation tired of violence. We decided to vote peacefully and refused to be drawn into our base urges of violence. That is what we should do again and trust in our democratic institutions after changes to the IEBC have been affected. We should also remember that voting is our right and we should exercise it when the new date is set.
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