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Kenya’s top court upholds Kenyatta victory


Video by Duncan WOODSIDE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-31

Kenya’s Supreme Court ruled Saturday that the results of the March 4 presidential election giving Uhuru Kenyatta a slim victory were valid, overturning a legal challenge by Kenyatta’s arch rival Raila Odinga.

In a landmark verdict delivered Saturday, Kenya’s Supreme Court upheld Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the March 4 presidential election, rejecting several petitions – including an appeal by Kenyatta’s rival, Raila Odinga – challenging the vote.

Announcing the verdict – which was unanimously reached by the court’s six-member bench – Kenya’s Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said the March 4 election was “conducted in compliance with the constitution and the law'' and that Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, were legally elected.

Kenyatta was proclaimed the winner of the March 4 poll with 50.07 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff vote by just 8,000 ballots. But the results were challenged by Odinga and civil society groups in court.

Saturday’s court ruling ended weeks of nail-biting anxiety in a country still haunted by the post-electoral ethnic carnage following the disputed December 2007 elections, which killed more than 1,000 people and displaced around 600,000 others.

But while the Supreme Court verdict had been anticipated, the outcome was not a given, said FRANCE 24’s Duncan Woodside, reporting from Nairobi. “People here didn’t know what to expect because the Supreme Court is a body which has been reformed since the introduction of a new constitution in 2010. So, it was by no means certain that there would be a ruling fully in favour of the status quo,” said Woodside. “Many people thought that perhaps the Supreme Court may uphold at least some of the complaints made by the petitioners. But obviously that has not happened.”

Odinga accepts court ruling

The verdict was greeted with jubilation in some parts of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, with residents honking their car horns and blowing the ubiquitous vuvuzelas.

But in Raila Odinga’s stronghold of Kisumu, a western Kenyan city situated on the banks of Lake Victoria, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of angry demonstrators chanting, “No Raila, no peace!”

In his response to Saturday’s verdict, Odinga himself appealed for calm and said he respected the Supreme Court’s verdict.

"The court has now spoken," Odinga told a news conference shortly after the verdict was delivered. "I wish the president-elect, honourable Uhuru Kenyatta, and his team well."

‘A regional powerhouse headed by an ICC-charged president’

The verdict paves the way for Kenyatta’s swearing-in as the fourth president of this East African nation.

Both Kenyatta and Ruto face crimes of humanity charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged roles in orchestrating the violence following the disputed December 2007 polls.

The Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Kenyatta’s victory presents a major headache for Western nations, said FRANCE 24’s Leela Jacinto.

“The international community now has to juggle a diplomatic engagement with a regional powerhouse headed by an ICC-charged president and a growing Chinese presence in the country,” said Jacinto. “Kenya is not only East Africa’s largest economy, it's also a critical partner in the fight against terrorism in neighbouring Somalia. In the lead-up to the March 4 poll, Kenyatta ran a very slick, but very anti-Western campaign, effectively dragging the old colonial skeletons to portray the ICC charges as a Western plot against Kenyan sovereignty. It’s going to be interesting to watch how the US and the EU will have to patch up that relationship in the days to come.”

An old battle in a new guise

The court battle between the two leading candidates was just the latest round in a long-standing rivalry between the Kenyattas and Odingas that goes back a generation.

One of Africa’s richest men, Kenyatta is the son of Kenya’s founding father – Jomo Kenyatta. Odinga is the son of Kenya’s first vice president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, who famously fell out with the country’s founding father and quit his position before serving as head of the opposition.

The March 9 declaration of victory for Kenyatta marked a continuation of the status quo in Kenya, an East African nation that has seen neither a military coup, nor army rule, nor the type of revolution or sweeping nationalisation of resources that many other post-colonial African countries have experienced.

In its 50-year history, Kenya has had four presidents, three of them Kikuyus, but none from Odinga’s Luo tribe.

Date created : 2013-03-30


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