THE ruling by the Supreme Court of Kenya that the presidential election must be re-run is an opportunity to secure peace rooted in justice, Christian Aid’s Kenya country manager, John Kitui, has said this week.
“It’s very difficult in Africa for a court to rule against a sitting president,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s the first time that has happened.” The Court had been “under a lot of pressure to rule that they [the elections] were free and fair.”
After the incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta, was declared the winner last month, the Opposition leader, Raila Odinga, brought a legal challenge. Last Friday, the Chief Justice of Kenya, David Maraga, described by Reuters as a “devout Christian”, declared that the result was “invalid, null, and void”. President Kenyatta was not accused of any wrongdoing, but the Court ruled that the Electoral Commission had “failed, neglected, or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution”. On Monday, the Commission set a date: 17 October.
The Bishop of Nairobi, the Rt Revd Joel Waweru, said on Tuesday that the atmosphere in the capital was “calm”. The Supreme Court’s decision was “welcome to those who went to court but not welcome to those who were taken to court”.
“We pray that elections will be peaceful and that . . . the elections will sort out the issues that are there and the technicalities raised during the court ruling,” he said.
“There is a lot of pressure to make sure they [the Electoral Commission] are not just focused on having a peaceful election but a fair and transparent one as well,” Mr Kitui said. Since the establishment of democracy in 1992, “each election has not been felt to be free and fair”. For Kenya, it was a chance to have “peace coming from justice having been done, and Kenyans having had their voice”.
The priority for the winner must be unity, he said: “In terms of focus, that has to be bringing the country together. The winner should be able to win with humility and dignity and respect. . . The country is very, very divided, because the election is always tribalised. As it is now, with social media, there is a lot of partisanship and people not objectively thinking.” Other priorities must include addressing the drought afflicting the country.
The Church had a vital part to play, he said: “That is where everyone can forget about their tribe. . . We would like them to speak out on more than peace. . . The Church has a very big role to play in bringing together people and calling for justice and holding politicians to account in terms of rule of law.”
President Kenyatta has accepted the Court’s decision but has since made derogatory remarks about the judiciary. “Who even elected you?. . . We have a problem and we must fix it,” he said on Friday. At a rally he described the judiciary as “crooks”.
On Tuesday, Mr Odinga said that his coalition would not participate in the re-run unless a certain conditions were met, including the removal of six officials on the election board.
“You cannot do a mistake twice and expect to get different results,” he told the press.
The Court’s decision was welcomed by the Kenyan Catholic Bishops’ Conference. CAFOD’s country representative for Kenya, Catherine Ogolla, said that it “sets a precedent that peace can prevail through legal means following a contentious election. . . By respecting the constitution and seeking recourse through the courts, the democratic system has been strengthened.”