The Sun News

Annulment of Kenya’s presidential election

We salute the Kenyan Supreme Court for its courageous nullification of the August 8, 2017 re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.  Having asserted its privilege as the highest court in the land in a 4-2 decision, the court made history in Africa as the first Supreme Court to upturn the re-election of an incumbent president.  Although details of its decision are yet to be released, the court declared that the election was not conducted in accordance with the Kenyan Constitution and it, therefore, ordered that another election be held within 60 days.  Indeed, the Kenyan electoral commission has already scheduled the re-run for October 17.

We commend President Kenyatta for accepting the decision of the court, thereby demonstrating his belief in the rule of law, although his later comments which had tended to impugn the integrity of the honourable justices were rather indecorous and unhelpful, to say the least.  It is necessary to praise the opposition for ensuring that nothing untoward happened in the course of its jubilation.  The election of October 17 is likely to be another hard-fought electoral contest as that of August 8.  Let all the parties remain peaceful throughout the electioneering campaigns and not forget the nightmare of 2007 when at least 1,300 Kenyans lost their lives in a senseless orgy of electoral violence, which remains till date an embarrassment to African democracy.

The Kenyan Supreme Court deserves accolades for its timely verdict, a record  which is worthy of commendation to the Nigerian judiciary.  The election was held on August 8; the Supreme Court rendered its decision barely three weeks later, a speed which says a great deal about the efficiency of the Kenyan justice system, supporting the notion that justice delayed is justice denied.

The unduly harsh criticism of the Kenyan electoral commission by Mr. Raila Odinga has been noted by the commission, which so far has defended itself of accusations of bias and offered to make amends in accordance with the wishes of the Supreme Court.  While Odinga reserves his right to criticize the commission, he must not go overboard by trying to de-legitimize the commission.  The history of the commission is an open book.  It is public knowledge that it was constituted, to a large extent, in accordance with the wishes of Odinga’s party and other members of the opposition in order to ensure that the commission is seen to be free and fair in its activities.  The commission cannot possibly be reconstituted in the middle of the electoral contest for two reasons.  First, it would be unfair to the other side.  Secondly, the 60-day deadline specified by law would be unrealistic if the government has to begin the process of choosing a new set of electoral commission members.  It is clear that the whole world is watching the developments in Kenya with intense interest.

Odinga and his supporters have been given a rare and excellent opportunity to appeal to the electorate to vote him into office.  They should use it wisely and avoid its erosion through violence and inciting statements.  They should not put more pressure on the electoral commission than necessary.  Odinga should not set impossible conditions for his participation.  It is always unwise to boycott democratic elections.  It is also misguided to assume victory until the votes are counted. 

Politicians should accept electoral contests as sport, and display gallantry and good humour, even when the decision is unfavourable, to lessen the tension in the polity.  The idea of trying to win at all costs is a wrong approach to politics, which has been a recipe for disaster in Africa.

Let the Kenyan electoral agency give a good account of itself in this very important repeat election. Its integrity and that of the country’s electoral system should not be called to question.

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