Kenya’s top court upholds president’s election

AP, NAIROBI

Tue, Nov 21, 2017 - Page 6

The Kenyan Supreme Court yesterday upheld Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election in a repeat vote that the opposition boycotted while saying electoral reforms had not been made.

The decision appeared to put an end to a months-long political drama never before seen in Africa that has left dozens dead.

In a unanimous decision, the court dismissed challenges by human rights activists and a politician who argued that last month’s election was not conducted according to the law.

The petitioners had argued, among other reasons, that the outcome should be voided because the election board did not seek fresh nominations after the Aug. 8 poll was invalidated in September, and because the vote was not held in each of Kenya’s 291 voter constituencies.

Protests began in response to the court’s decision, although an opposition call for calm appeared to have effect. Anger remained.

“We will not respect [Kenyatta] even after the court verdict. That was not an election and we will continue opposing him,” said Wycliffe Onyango, a resident of the opposition stronghold of Kisumu city.

Live television footage showed Kenyatta supporters bursting into song.

“There is no perfect election; there will always be errors in elections, but you cannot invalidate an election unless those errors affect the outcome,” Kenyan Attorney General Githu Muigai said.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose legal challenge led to the nullification, then boycotted the repeat election and rejected Kenyatta’s overwhelming win.

In some opposition strongholds, the repeat vote could not be carried out amid unrest.

Odinga said yesterday’s court decision was no surprise.

“We ... had repeatedly declared before this Supreme Court ruling today that we consider this government to be illegitimate and do not recognize it. This position has not been changed by the court ruling,” Odinga said.

The opposition leader said the court’s decision was “taken under duress. We do not condemn the court, we sympathize with it,” but he did not give details.

There had been concerns about intimidation of the justices, who failed to muster a quorum to decide on a last-minute petition that sought to postpone last month’s election.

One justice’s bodyguard was shot and seriously wounded hours before the expected judgment.

Odinga is now asking for international intervention as violent protests continue.

Kenya “was being pushed to the precipice”’ he said on Sunday.

Yesterday’s ruling clears the way for Kenyatta’s swearing-in on Tuesday next week, but it is unlikely to end the worst political crisis in the nation in a decade.

Additional reporting by Reuters