Election campaigns have started afresh in Kenya after the Supreme Court there ordered a rerun of last month’s poll within 60 days because it was not conducted according to the Constitution.
Kenya’s opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (Nasa), and its supporters hailed this as the victory they were denied on August 8, when the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party were re-elected with 54% of the vote.
There were spontaneous celebrations on the streets after the judgment on Friday.
Kevin Mwachiro, a former journalist who currently works at a nongovernmental organisation in Kenya, wrote on Facebook that the mood was unusually jovial in the matatu (minibus taxi) he was in at the time, and that hooting, waving and dancing were going on in the streets.
The driver and a passenger shouted out of the window: “Canaan bado tutafika!” (“Canaan, we are coming yet!”) – in reference to Nasa opposition leader and presidential hopeful Raila Odinga’s rally cry that he would lead Kenyans into the promised land, just like Joshua did in the Bible.
In an official televised address following the judgment, Kenyatta said he respected the court ruling even if he disagreed, adding: “Let us be a people of peace.”
However, at an impromptu rally at Nairobi’s bustling Burma Market, he told cheering supporters in Swahili that the opposition was “being paid for by whites and other trash” – a veiled reference to denied reports that Odinga, through his daughter, received money from the George Soros Foundation. He also threatened the judges, saying they were “wakora”, meaning crooks.
Meanwhile, Odinga, who ran much of his campaign on claims that this election would be rigged like the previous two, said the case “revealed the utter rot at the heart of our electoral commission and electoral process”.
He said Chief Justice David Maraga had set an “exceptional example for all of Africa” by showing it was possible “to challenge the mighty power that many African presidents wield against the will of their people”.
Observer missions to Kenya were criticised for pronouncing the elections fair and credible. Former president Thabo Mbeki, who led the African Union’s (AU’s) observer mission, had expressed faith in Kenya’s judiciary and the processes available to deal with electoral disputes before the elections, adding that the mission was there “to observe and not investigate” rigging claims. On Friday, he referred to a statement by AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat, who said the judgment “advances a culture of democracy and peace, constitutionalism and rule of law in Kenya and Africa in general”.
AU watcher Liesl Louw-Vaudran, from the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said: “Previously, AU missions have been accused of rubber-stamping elections. Observers like the AU will learn from this judgment that they must be more circumspect and cautious about the wording of observations, especially a day or two after voting.”
At a press conference at Harare International Airport in 2013, former AU Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma declared she was confident that Zimbabwe’s elections would be fair and transparent, even though she had just got off the plane.
But in 2015, the AU refused to send an observer mission to Burundi’s poll, saying it could not be free and fair.
Kenyan political analyst Nanjala Nyabola said the ruling asserted judicial independence, a “core pillar of a functional democracy”. She said the electoral commission’s lawyers had asked the court to “look the other way because the outcome was ‘fairly credible’, but the court basically said ‘fairly credible’ was not good enough”.
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