The nullification of the August 8, 2017 President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory by the Kenyan Supreme Court was nothing short of history. It was a ruling that put two of Kenya’s leaders on the spotlight.
The political history of the Kenyattas and Odingas can be traced back to independent Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta was President and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was Vice President. The two eventually had a fall out, with Oginga Odinga forming his own party which eventually became the beginning of opposition politics in Kenya. Decades later, the sons of the two leaders Uhuru Kenyatta, and Raila Odinga continue the political battle to govern Kenya. For a robust democracy, opposition parties are needed not only to serve as wider options from which the public can vote from but also to temper the excesses of the governing party.
After the August 8 elections in Kenya, the opposition party went to court to contest the results announced by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Regional and international observers endorsed the elections as free and fair. Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the electoral commission for having done an “extraordinary job to ensure that Kenya has a free, fair and credible poll.” Kerry’s message to the opposition was to “get over it and move on.”
The nullification of the result was a watershed moment in Kenya’s political and judiciary history. In Chief Justice David Maraga’s words, “The greatness of a nation lies in its fidelity to its constitution and a strict adherence to the rule of law, and above all, the fear of God.”
Kenya is the 1st country in the world where 4 decided to overturn the will of 15m who woke up early, queued for hours and voted peacefully. pic.twitter.com/nVyM3xvukZ
— Uhuru Kenyatta (@UKenyatta) September 2, 2017
The Supreme Court ruling nullifying Kenyatta’s re-election as president was not a victory for the opposition and Odinga. It was a victory for democracy and the strengthening of the democratic process, constitutionalism and independence of the judiciary in Kenya. The annulment of the elections has propelled Odinga as a champion for democracy. Odinga’s antecedent is not just restricted to the 2017 elections but also in the formation 2010 constitution where he played a major role by ensuring that there was devolution of power.
If the Supreme Court ruling did anything, it further exposed Kenyatta who in response to the nullification of the elections said the decision of millions of Kenyans was overridden by the ruling of six people. Kenyatta said he would deal with Maraga if re-elected in the upcoming polls. Kenyatta was quoted as saying, “we shall respect (court ruling) but we shall revisit this agenda.” “[A]s the Supreme Court you cannot overturn the will of the people,” he added. Kenyatta’s language even referred to the Chief Justice as a thug.
The IEBC announced that only Kenyatta and Raila would contest the re-run, thus eliminating all other previous candidates. Odinga has demanded that all presidential contestants who contested in the first race be included in the fresh polls and that the IEBC team that handled the August 8 elections be replaced.
The reaction of the two men has put them on different sides with history. With fresh date for the election announced, set for October 17, Kenyatta still insists he was robbed of his victory. Lessons will indeed be learnt from the ongoing political process. Kenyans can point to a time in history when integrity and justice made their nation a country every African nation wanted to emulate.