The judiciary is under the spotlight as Kenya prepares for new elections after the country’s supreme court on Friday annulled the August 8 elections on the grounds that they were not run “consistently with the dictates of the constitution”.
Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) reported that President Uhuru Kenyatta won a second-term in office in the elections which saw over 14 million Kenyans turn out to vote.
However, Judge David Maraga, together with six other judges, ordered the IEBC to conduct fresh polls within 60 days.
Not only is the period of less than two months very little time to prepare for fresh elections, but Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga are entrenching their hard-core positions and ramping up the rhetoric which could lead to fresh outbreaks of violence.
While Odinga and his supporters hailed the court’s verdict and called for members of the IEBC to be jailed, Kenyatta made what appeared to be veiled threats against the judiciary after the overturning of the “flawed” elections, Al Jazeera reported.
"Every time we do something, a judge comes out and places an injunction. It can't go on like this ... there is a problem and we must fix it,” said a furious Kenyatta.
"I think those robes they wear make them think that they are more clever than the rest of us Kenyans," Kenyatta said of the Supreme Court judges, taking specific aim at Maraga.
"Maraga thinks he can overturn the will of the people. We shall show you ... that the will of the people cannot be overturned by a few people."
The response from the judiciary was blunt. The Kenya magistrates and Judges Association (KMJA) called Kenyatta’s remarks an assault on the judiciary.
"The president of this country referred to the president of the Supreme Court and the other judges as "wakora", or crooks in Swahili, it said.
"He went on to make veiled threats against the same judges based on their decision. The same threats against the judiciary have been repeated at State House," said its chief Bryan Khaemba, referring to the presidential palace.
"We condemn this assault on the decisional independence of the honourable judges," he said.
The overturning of the elections is a historic first for Africa.
The Kenyan media has heaped praise on the decision, hailing it as a hard-fought victory for the rule of law and a sign of the country’s maturing democracy.
Odinga, who lost the 1997, 2007 and 2013 elections, however has said he has no faith in the IEBC and said the institution has to be reformed before he will run, while his nemesis Kenyatta has said the electoral commission can be dealt with after the new elections.
- African News Agency