by Fran BLANDY Kenya's Supreme Court on Friday ordered a new presidential election within 60 days after cancelling the results of last month's poll in a shock decision in favour of the opposition.
Joyous celebrations erupted outside the court and in opposition strongholds after the second term victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared “invalid, null and void”.
The decision came as a rare political victory for veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, 72, who hailed a “historic” ruling which he said was a first in Africa.
Chief Justice David Maraga said a majority decision by the panel of seven judges, with two dissenting, found that Kenyatta “was not validly elected”, rendering the result “invalid, null and void”.
Maraga said the election commission (IEBC) had “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution”.
Kenyatta’s lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi criticised the court’s decision as “very political”, but said they would “live with the consequences”.
Thousands of Odinga supporters flooded the streets of Nairobi’s Kibera slum and his strongholds in the western city of Kisumu.
“This is justice for us the people of Kisumu. They (police) came to beat and shoot at us when we protested the election results, but now the truth is out,” said Jackson Oduor in Kisumu.
“For the first time we have got justice. They have stolen the election for long,” said fishmonger Lynette Akello.
– ‘Irregularities and illegalities’ -Kenya has a long history of disputed votes, election violence and a lack of faith in the judiciary’s independence.
The run-up to the August 8 election was marred by the murder of top IEBC IT official Chris Msando and opposition allegations that rigging was certain.
Indeed Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA) cried foul shortly after counting began, claiming the system transmitting votes had been hacked, and that forms from polling stations that were meant to back up the electronic results were not being uploaded.
The August 11 declaration of Kenyatta’s victory with 54.27 percent of the vote — with not all the tallying forms in — sparked two days of demonstrations and riots in the slums of Nairobi and Kisumu, traditional opposition strongholds.
At least 21 people, including a baby and a nine-year-old girl, were killed, mostly by police, according to an AFP tally.
It was the third time in a row that Odinga cried foul, having claimed he was cheated out of rightful victory after losing elections in 2007 and 2013.
However protests remained isolated and did not reach the levels of the disputed 2007 election which saw politically-motivated ethnic violence in which over 1,100 people were killed.
In 2013, Odinga took his grievances to court and lost.
This time he initially refused to take the case to court but changed his mind, saying NASA wanted the truth to come out even if they believed they had no hope of winning.
However, in a dramatic and widely unexpected turn of events, the Supreme Court agreed with the opposition coalition.
Maraga said there had been “irregularities and illegalities”, notably in the transmission of election results.
He said this had compromised the “integrity of the entire presidential election”.
And he ordered that a new election be held within 60 days.
– Poll commissioners ‘must go’ -“We are ready for elections but we don’t have confidence in the IEBC”, said Odinga.
“Those commissioners must go,” he said.
“Most of them belong in jail.”
Maraga said the panel of judges had not yet had time to write a “reasoned and well-considered judgement” since hearings closed on Tuesday night, so he only read out the court decision, promising a full ruling later.
NASA official and lawyer, James Orengo, had argued that irregularities — including unsigned and fake tally forms, hacked servers and deliberate miscounting — had affected around one-third of the 15.5 million votes cast.
But lawyers for the election commission and Kenyatta countered that errors were simply “clerical” mistakes and technicalities that did not affect the outcome of the vote.
A report filed by the court registrar found a number of errors in the 41,451 polling station tally sheets — known as form 34A — as well as in 291 of the form 34B constituency tally sheets, some of which were unsigned, not stamped, illegible or lacking serial numbers or watermarks.
In addition, the registrar’s report found that the electoral commission failed to provide full court-ordered access to its servers, which NASA had demanded in order to back up its allegations of hacking. DM