04 April 2013

Kenya's Supreme Court Makes Decision on Election Petition

Raila announces he will file a petition with the Supreme Court, disputing election results

“Kenya’s Democracy is on Trial” were the words of incumbent Prime Minister Raila Odinga who lost the March 4th presidential election to Uhuru Kenyatta. Raila, who came in second, filed a petition at the Supreme Court on March 16, to oppose the results of the General Elections. He claimed they were flawed to favor Kenyatta and give him a first round win.

The Prime Minister criticized the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, charged to conduct elections, saying that the commission presided over a “sham” process that unfairly denied him the chance to become the fourth president of the Republic Of Kenya.

Kenya's Supreme Court was established in 2010.

Excerpt of the Supreme Court's decision as read by Chief Justice, Willie Mutunga (third from left), on March 30):
1. After extensive deliberations, we are happy to announce the Supreme Court has reached a unanimous decision on all the four issues that fell for determination in presidential election.

2. The following is the unanimous decision of the court:

(i) As to whether the presidential election held on March 4th 2013, was conducted in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner, in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution and all relevant provisions of the law; it is the decision of the court that the said elections were indeed conducted in compliance with the Constitution and the law.

(ii) As to whether the 3rd and 4th Respondents (Uhuru and Ruto) were validly elected and declared as President-elect and Deputy President-elect of the Republic of Kenya respectively, by the Second Respondent (Issack Hassan) in the presidential elections held on the 4th March 2013; it is the decision of the court that the 3rd and 4th respondents were validly elected.

Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya and runner-up to President-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta

Excerpt from Raila's speech after the Supreme Court's decision:
Our decision to file a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge the validity of the election was a testament of my faith in the independence of our Judiciary. We did so for the sake of our democracy and for the sake of all Kenyans who wanted to exercise their constitutional right to elect their leaders through a free and fair election.

Although we may not agree with some of [the court's] findings, and despite all the anomalies we have pointed out, our belief in constitutionalism remains supreme. Casting doubt on the judgment of the court could lead to higher political and economic uncertainty, and make it more difficult for our country to move forward. We must soldier on in our resolve to reform our politics and institutions. Respect for the supremacy of the Constitution in resolving disputes between fellow citizens is the surest foundation of our democratic society.

My belief in constitutionalism remains supreme. We as a country must move forward in our resolve to reform our politics and institutions. Respect for the supremacy of the constitution in resolving disputes is the surest foundation of our democratic society. This court process is yet another milestone on our road towards democracy for which we have fought for so long. Truth, justice, and the faithful implementation of the constitution is our best guarantee to peace and security.

It is my hope that the incoming government will have fidelity to our constitution and implement it to the letter for the betterment of Kenya. I wish the President-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his team well.

I thank the Kenyans who supported us in our petition. I assure you, I will continue to work for and with you for our country Kenya. The future of Kenya is bright. Let us not allow the elections to divide us. Let us re-unite as a nation. I call on all Kenyans to remember the sacred words of our national anthem: Justice be our shield and defender. God bless you and God bless Kenya.

Ahmed Issack Hassan, Chairman of Kenya's Electoral Commission

Excerpts from a statement issued by Issack Hassan, after the Supreme Court's ruling:
The court has demonstrated a high level of professionalism by listening impartially to the litigants. The journey toward this election was very involving: starting from the voter registration, inspection of the register, nominations, and finally the election which was conducted on March 4th.

We also acknowledge the respondents for equally embracing the unifying role of judicial settlement of disputes. There are no winners and losers in this case and Kenyans should remain united and peaceful. This case is a classic example of how far Kenya has matured democratically.

President-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta

Excerpts from Uhuru Kenyatta's speech after the Supreme Court ruling:
I want to assure all Kenyans, including those who did not vote for the Jubilee Coalition, and indeed even those who challenged the validity of my election, that my Government will work with, and serve all Kenyans without any discrimination whatsoever.

Personally, I sincerely thank my brother Hon. Raila Odinga for wishing us well and reach out to him and our other worthy competitors to join us so that we can work together in the interest of the well-being of our people. Let us rise above the differences of the electoral period and continue co-existing peacefully as brothers and sisters. Above all, let us all continue to pray for peace in our country.

Gabriel Gatehouse, BBC correspondent

Analysis from Gabriel Gatehouse, BBC News:
"No Raila, no peace," one man shouted in Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum and Mr Odinga's biggest stronghold in the capital. The three-time presidential hopeful faced a choice today. His supporters were waiting for him to speak. When he took to the microphone, his words seemed designed to calm rather than inflame.

It was a gracious speech, the speech of a man who had put peace before ambition. Some will argue that Raila put peace before the truth. Once the dust settles on this period of uncertainty, there will still be questions about how this election was conducted, and the implications of the failings of the IEBC, the electoral commission, for future polls.

Meanwhile, Uhuru Kenyatta has been receiving the customary international congratulations. In the run-up to the election, some had warned of "consequences" if Kenya elected a president indicted by the International Criminal Court.

That has now become a reality. The key test will be to what extent diplomats, and indeed Mr Kenyatta himself, can mitigate those consequences.

Analysis from Kap Kirwok, writing for The Star:
Beyond the ruling, the whole political contest has thrown up dynamics whose interplay will shape Kenya into the foreseeable future. It is not true that this election has been peaceful. Peace is not just the absence of war or violence. It is freedom from disturbance - a sense of quiet and tranquility.

The ferocious tribal clash waged in social media deny the notion of having had a peaceful election. In that arena, it is war minus the shooting. These cyberspace duels make two things very clear:

  • The distance between digital slash and burn and actual physical combat is not as far as you might think. 
  • Hatreds run deeper than we are willing to admit.

When you look beneath all the sound and fury, the grievance can be reduced to a primitive denominator: tribal competition. One side accuses the other of serial thievery and domination; the accused side responds with a you-can-do-nothing-about-it shrug. There is much huffing and puffing; insults are traded freely.

The country is split along this primitive narrative. The new presidency will need to move courageously and with speed to address this dangerous rift. .


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