Magazine article New African

Kenya: Kenyatta vs Odinga, Round Two

Magazine article New African

Kenya: Kenyatta vs Odinga, Round Two

Article excerpt

After what had seemed a cut and dried election victory for Uhuru Kenyatta and his party, Kenya's Supreme Court dropped a bombshell by annulling the result and calling for a fresh presidential election this month. The re-run is scheduled for 26 October but chaos continues to reign as all sorts of unexpected complications arise.

Just as we were going to press, Kenya's beleaguered Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced that it had pushed back the original re-run date from 17 October to 26 October to give it more time to put the complex electoral system, including an expensive electronic voter registration mechanism in place.

Meanwhile, Praxedes Tororey, (IEBC) Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs, one of the individuals the opposition NASA party led by Raila Odinga wanted replaced, announced her retirement from the body as she had reached the age of 60. The electoral body said the timing of the retirement was only a coincidence and had nothing to do with the controversy over the elections. She was one of six members of the Commission that NASA had accused of "election malpractice" and wanted replaced. The others include CEO Ezra Chiloba, voter registration and electoral operations director Immaculate Kasait, head of operations Betty Nyabuto, ICT director James Muhati and Commissioner Yakub Guliye.

Earlier, the French biometrics firm, OT-Morpho which had also been accused by the opposition of manipulating the results, had said it would not nave sufficient time to re-set the system for the re-run by 17 October without compromising data from the 8 August elections. The data must be stored in case of disputes. It was not clear at the time of going to press whether the firm would be able to re-set the system for the new date, 26 October.

The Kenya Constitution stipulates that a re-run of elections, when necessary, must be held 60 days after the initial announcement of the results. This means the deadline is 30 October. Failure to do it by then could lead to a constitutional crisis.

A visibly disappointed President Uhuru Kenyatta said that "a coup in Kenya has just been done by the four people in the Supreme Court", who he said had stolen the people's democratic rights. He was referring to four of the six judges who had voted to annul the election saying the poll had been "neither transparent nor verifiable". Two other judges had given the poll the all-clear, as had international observers including the former President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama.

The unprecedented step by the Supreme Court of Kenya to annul a presidential election--probably the first in the modern history of the world--has raised tensions to boiling point. Although Kenyatta has said that while he believes that there was a conspiracy to deprive him of a well-deserved victory (he obtained 54.27% of the votes to Odinga's 44.94%), he would abide by the rule of law, and Odinga has also said he will accept the results of the new poll if they are "transparent and fair", there are fears that simmering tensions could escalate during the run-up to the re-run.

Spectre of violence

Looming over the country is the spectre of an orgy of violence that was unleashed in the slums of Nairobi and other centres following the 2007 elections, when Raila Odinga lost to Mwai Kibaki and disputed the results.

It took the country many years to heal the wounds and even longer to restore business and investment confidence in Kenya. Tourism, an important source of foreign revenue, took a body blow from which it has not yet fully recovered.

Given a general downturn in commodity prices and a crippling drought, economic growth has been sluggish at best but Kenya's fundamentals remain strong--as long as political stability can be maintained, as it has over the past five years.

Following the violence of 2007/8, the political elite of the country, with support from Africa's "wise men" such as Kofi Annan and other leaders, managed to work out a series of compromises, including creating the post of prime minister for Raila Odinga, to calm tempers and restore order. …

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