Apex court to hear poll petitions

Uhuru Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta

NAIROBI. — Kenya’s Supreme Court is poised to hear petitions challenging president Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election in a repeat presidential poll. The court made history when it nullified Kenyatta’s re-election in August. It cited irregularities and illegalities in the vote count and the electoral commission’s failure to allow scrutiny of its servers to dispel opposition leader Raila Odinga’s claim of fraud. It then ordered a new vote. There are concerns about intimidation after the court failed to find a quorum to consider a petition seeking to postpone the repeat presidential election on October 26, a day after a bodyguard of one of the judges was shot.

Politician Harun Mwau and activists Njonjo Mue and Khelef Khalifa seek to nullify the October 26 election, which Odinga boycotted citing lack of electoral reforms. Meanwhile, the rift between Kenya’s opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) and ruling party Jubilee continues to widen, an indication that the political standoff arising from two disputed presidential polls in the country is far from over. Leaders from the two major political formations in the east African nation have maintained hard line positions, with those aligned to Kenyatta accusing NASA of seeking to take power through the backdoor.

Jubilee Party has dismissed calls for the formation of an interim government, insisting that they would only have dialogue with the opposition once Kenyatta is sworn in. Two petitions have been filed at the Supreme Court to challenge the incumbent’s win.

“You are day-dreaming by demanding for a transition government to prepare a fresh election,” Jubilee lawmaker Cecily Mbarire told NASA leader Raila Odinga on Monday. Odinga has thrown the constitution out of the window and using jungle law to get power,” she said. “An interim government is not provided for by any Kenyan law.” On the other hand, those in NASA have threatened to swear in Raila Odinga if Kenyatta is sworn into office. They hold onto the position that Odinga’s win was stolen on August 8.

“If they will swear in Kenyatta, we will swear in Raila Odinga. Let them have their country, we would also form ours,” NASA MP Gladys Wanga told a cheering crowd in Nairobi on Sunday. NASA leaders in the meantime have resorted to holding rallies raising political temperatures in the country, amid products boycott and formation of People’s Assemblies, two other strategies they have adopted.

“Opposition leader Raila Odinga is to arrive back into the country on Friday. To this effect, we welcome all Kenyans to a rally on Thursday,” said a statement by Senator James Orengo on Monday. “The rally will be a dress rehearsal for the Friday grand welcome.” The ongoing political rhetoric is dividing Kenyans further as citizens strive to eke out a living following a lengthy electioneering period. The grandstanding, according to analysts, is worsening Kenya’s political situation as most citizens believe what their leaders tell them.

“When a leader calls for secession, not once, but thrice, citizens begin creating the impression of having their own country in their minds,” said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi. This is dangerous for Kenya because it is a threat to unity,” he said. Benji Ndolo, a lawyer in Nairobi, reckoned that the opposition may not be meaning all that it is saying, but is using various strategies to push for its course.

“I doubt NASA will move forward with the threat of swearing in Raila,” he said. Peter Kagwanja, a political strategist allied to Jubilee, accused the opposition of engaging in arm-twisting tactics to force a coalition government.

“Opposition is sponsoring boycotts and protests to force dialogue, unity government and power-sharing, which casts a dark shadow on the country’s economy,” he said.

“The country may have successfully pulled back from the brink following disputed polls, but the dilemma of liberal democracy is far from over.” Legal scholar Makau Mutua, who leans toward NASA, believes that Odinga and his team are fighting for a just cause — against exclusion perpetuated by the Kenyan political system where the winner takes all.

“Those in Jubilee feel they are in power legitimately and can’t overcome the conscience of those who believe the regime is illegitimate. And those in NASA feel they have been robbed victory and excluded from government,” said Mutua. Mutua roots for the destruction of the presidential system of government to end the culture of exclusion.

“We need to adopt an explicitly parliamentary system of government with a constitutional formula that denies political parties a tribal base,” he said. — AP/Xinhua.

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