KENYA’S VOTE RE-RUN: PRECEDENT SETTING FOR AFRICA?
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Makwaia Wa Kuhenga
Typography

NEIGHBOURING Kenya is set for another presidential vote next month billed for October 17 after its disputed vote last month was invalidated by the country’s Supreme Court.

This is the piece of news in the intervening period, which is unprecedented in Africa, and largely elsewhere where competitive multiparty elections are sporadically held. According to news agency reports, it is the first time in Africa that a court has nullified the re-election of a sitting leader.

“The presidential election was not conducted in accordance with the constitution, rendering the declared results invalid, null and void,” Kenya’s Chief Justice David Maranga is quoted as saying in his judgment on a petition by a leading Kenya’s opposition group.

In the Kenyan Supreme Court, four out of six justices agreed with Kenya’s opposition petition that the country’s election commission had committed irregularities that invalidated the vote. The move also raised the questions about international monitors, who had earlier declared the election “fair”.

Earlier, before nullification by the Kenya’s Supreme Court, it was announced that sitting President Uhuru Kenyatta, 55 year old son of Kenya’s founder President, Jomo Kenyatta had won the presidential vote, defeating veteran opposition candidate Raila Odinga who immediately claimed Kenyatta’s reelection as “fraudulent”.

Buoyant after the Supreme Court ruling, Odinga called the move “precedentsetting” and historic for his country and the rest of Africa. On his part, reigning President Uhuru Kenyatta at first appeared to accept the court ruling but vowed there was a “problem” with the country’s judiciary and he was going to “fix” it.

Now those of us who have been following developments in our neighbour’s household, have been gripped by fears of what is likely to befall our neighbours, fears of violence. Looking at recent developments, although Kenya’s preceding elections in 2013 was mainly peaceful; the country plunged into widespread violence in the aftermath of its equally disputed 2007 vote.

More than 1,000 people were killed in months of bloodshed after Odinga, defeated by then President Mwai Kibaki, claimed the vote was rigged. This time around, after reigning President Kenyatta was declared the winner last month by 54 per cent over Odinga’s 45 per cent, sporadic violence has erupted in some areas of the country, according to reports, claiming the lives of at least 24 people.

Now, in a bird’s overview, this is the situation in neighbouring Kenya. For us, neighbours, our utmost concern is for continued peace and stability and not the opposite: violence and killings.

Watching television both local and international, we see that both men, Uhuru Kenyatta the reigning president and Raila Odinga, leader of the major opposition parties are crowd pullers; they enjoy considerable support in their political divide.

One word of advice to them is: at the end of the day is a Kenya at peace with itself not a Kenya in civil strife. The heading of this perspective is debatable. Indeed, the nullification of the vote in Kenya by a high court has set a precedent.

But is it worth emulation elsewhere? This is debatable! This brings us to the element of reigning constitutions in countries where a multi-party mold of governance is in place. As we have seen in Kenya, the decision by that country’s Supreme Court to nullify an election and call for another has been both breathtaking and unprecedented.

In most countries in Africa, the clarion call has been for the establishment of Independent Electoral Commissions, away from the influence of a government in place. Those commissions would be the end of all electoral affairs and their pronouncements on a given poll would be final.

But precedence is precedence. Let us see how things end up in our neighbour’s doorsteps. It is for the respective people in respective countries in Africa to make the ultimate decision constitutionally.

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