Uhuru’s victory gives East Africa its second youngest president

Saturday March 30 2013

President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta addresses a press conference after the Supreme Court upheld his election.

Kenya’s Supreme Court on Saturday, March 30, dismissed two petitions challenging the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as the country’s next president, ending an anxious three weeks’ wait for the country and the region as they awaited the court rulings.

The Supreme Court of Kenya rejected the applications filed by Raila Odinga —Mr Kenyatta’s main challenger in the March 4 election—and the African Centre for Open Governance (Africog) whose prayers were that the presidential election was not validly conducted and tallied, and therefore should be nullified.

Mr Odinga also contested the declaration by the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that Mr Kenyatta had been validly elected as president.

At 51, Mr Kenyatta will become the second youngest president in the East African Community after Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, who is 49.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is the oldest at 68, followed by Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, 63, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, 55.

Uncertainty had gripped the country over the as the country’s top legal minds considered the possible scenarios around the outcome of the case.


Meanwhile, Kenya’s landlocked neighbours—who experienced bruising shortages after delays in releasing results in the country’s hotly contested polls slowed business activity, hurting supply chains—have keenly been watching the unfolding events in the country, in the hope the transition period would end smoothly.

Their biggest fear was that had the petition sailed through and the Supreme Court called for fresh elections, the polls would have had to be carried out in 60 days, further extending the transition period. There were also fears the outcome of the court cases would trigger widespread violence.

READ: Inside Raila, Uhuru’s historic court battle

Mr Odinga accepted the court verdict and wished Mr Kenyatta and his team well, an hour after the president of the Supreme Court Willy Mutunga read the judgement.

Diplomats from the European Union as well as Britain congratulated Mr Kenyatta following the verdict of the Supreme Court. When Mr Kenyatta was declared President, fears were mounting in the diplomatic community especially around the ICC issue.

The diplomats’ persistent interest in the issue had left analysts and politicians concerned that they could be planning to impose sanctions on Kenya.

Although there was a third petition, the focus was on the two petitions mentioned above because of their prayer for the nullification of the elections and their call for fresh elections.

At the heart of the two petitions were issues as to whether the electoral process, from registration and the compilation of the register, to the voting and the tallying of the votes was conducted as required by law.

The judges summarised the issues raised by the petitions into four questions or issues that the court was required to determine.

These were: Whether Mr Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto were validly elected; whether the presidential election was conducted in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner that met the standards required by the Constitution; and whether the rejected votes ought to have been included in determining the final tally of votes. The fourth issue was on declaration orders and reliefs the court should make after making determination on the above issues.

The court unanimously decided the first two questions in the affirmative, meaning that having looked at the evidence and the law, in the judges’ view, the elections had been conducted in a free and fair manner and that the persons declared elected had actually been lawfully elected to the office of president and deputy president respectively.

The judgment now paves the way for Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to embark on delivering on the promises contained in their campaign manifesto. Besides this, the two are facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague over their suspected role in the 2007/8 post-election violence.

ALSO READ: Great manifestos, but where’s the money?

Both leaders have stated that they intend to co-operate with the ICC to the end.

The judges further declared, on the third issue as to whether the rejected votes should have been included in the final tallying of votes, that the rejected votes ought not to have been included in the aggregate of votes for the purpose of calculating whether a candidate had received enough votes for the purpose of the requirement that the winning candidate had received more than half the votes case at the election.

As a consequence of the findings, the judges of the Supreme Court declared that the two petitions that had sought to challenge the declaration of election of the president and the deputy president be dismissed.

The decision, however, was rendered in summary in that it simply outlined the effect of the judgment but without giving the reasons for the decision and how they resolved the competing claims by the parties as to the effect of the evidence or the interpretation of the law.

The main reasons for the decision will be seen when the full judgment is delivered and handed down within 14 days as the court promised at the time of delivery of what were effectively highlights of the judgment.

It is therefore not possible to determine how the competing claims were resolved by the judges and the basis on which they determined the case, such as whether the petitions did not succeed because the petitioners did not muster sufficient evidence or whether the judges took the view that the evidence presented even if credible could not justify the prayer by the petitioners for a fresh election.

Another important issue that the judgment will need to reveal is what the judges defined as “a free and fair election” and what it entails as of necessity.

Equally important is the issue as to whether the judges were persuaded by the point made by the respondents to the effect that they ought to act in restraint and consider among other things the economic and political effects of the orders that would ensue from the orders by the court, especially with regard to a fresh election.

Sekou Owino is Nation Media Group’s head of legal services.