Globally, it is a rarity for courts to nullify presidential election results; in Africa this was totally outlandish – that is until the Supreme Court in Kenya on September 1, 2017 annulled the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta.
The shock that followed the Supreme Court verdict reverberated across Africa and is unlikely to die anytime soon, especially in Kenya where successive general elections have been dogged by concern of vote rigging and political instability, as highlighted by the violence that followed a disputed 2007 election when more than 1,200 people were killed.
“The Supreme Court decision for a repeat of the presidential election means Kenyans have an opportunity to truly elect a leader through the ballot as per the Constitution and without manipulation of votes,” says John Mwandu, a political analyst in Nairobi.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has tentatively scheduled the rematch between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga for October 17, 2017.
But as campaigns for the new election got underway, the fear of violence that has characterized recent Kenyan elections has only intensified as both sides rallied their supporters.
“While one could understand the initial euphoria and outrage that greeted the ruling, sobriety should have taken over as the dust settled and the reality of the ruling sunk in. However, each day has brought a new barrage of threats, insults, half-truths and ethnic slurs that do not augur well for a peaceful outcome in six weeks,” Gabriel Dolan, a Catholic priest based in Kenya’s second-largest city of Mombasa said in a commentary.
“In fact, the country appears to be more polarized now than before last month’s general election,” he added.
Kenyatta’s campaigns for the new elections have dwelled on bashing the Supreme Court for allegedly going against the will of the majority by nullifying the August 18, 2017 election results in which he was declared the winner by a margin of 1.4 million votes against rival Odinga.
Just hours after the Supreme Court handed its decision, Kenyatta called the Chief Justice David Maraga, and the three other judges who supported the verdict, crooks. His successive campaigns have since taken on a similar pose of hard-stance politics and personal attacks both against the Judiciary and Odinga. Kenyatta has repeatedly called his rival a witch doctor, a perennial loser and one full of riddles.
Odinga has too adopted a similar fashion of campaigns and regularly made personal attacks against Kenyatta. The veteran opposition leader, for instance, accused the president of making a televized national address while drunk. He also called Kenyatta a thief who should be languishing in jail for stealing elections.
“It is unfortunate that the campaign messages have turned personal and animosity is getting to a fever pitch among the supporters of both candidates. It is no longer about policies but hate speech and insults which is dangerous as the country goes back to elections. There may be violence at the end of it all,” says Mwandu.
Hate speech from supporters of Kenyatta and Odinga have spread to social media, where some of them openly insulted and threatened each other.
Analysts say the Supreme Court verdict offers an opportunity to streamline Kenya’s electoral system that has been synonymous with systemic cheating.
“What the ruling did was put temporary brakes on the rollercoaster of impunity that has characterized almost every election in Kenya,” wrote Rasna Warah in a column in Kenya’s largest newspaper, Daily Nation.
“The ruling may not end impunity in Kenya’s electoral processes but it will have a far-reaching psychological impact on the citizens, who have been led to believe that peace is synonymous with justice,” she added.
In 2013, Odinga filed a case in the Supreme Court against Kenyatta’s election but it was thrown out on technicalities – leaving many suspicious over the conduct of the IEBC. Dissatisfied with the court decision, the opposition held a series of demonstrations that forced the disbandment of the commission ahead of this year’s elections.
But, with the radical court action, this time there is hope of laying bare the activities of the IEBC and restore legitimacy to Kenya’s elections.
“If there have been crooks manipulating voting outcomes in Kenya then things may be different going forward because the Supreme Court has proved impunity and blatant disregard of the law is punishable,” says Mweni Matheka, a governance researcher.
Other sovereign institutions, including the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the Office of the Auditor-General and the IEBC itself, may want to borrow a leaf from the Supreme Court and assert their independence.
All these institutions have been subject to political pressures, especially when their work went against the whims of the government.
Just after the August 8 polls, Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Aden Duale, declared that the ruling coalition would use its majority in Parliament to oust Auditor-General Edward Ouko whose office has had run-ins with the executive over explosive audit reports that showed theft and misuse of public funds.
The IEBC has not been spared the heat from both the executive and the opposition, especially after the bungled polls. Both sides have demanded to have a say in the composition of the IEBC team that will manage the repeat polls.
But in separate letters to the ruling Jubilee coalition Secretary-General Raphael Tuju and the opposition National Super Alliance Co-Principal Musalia Mudavadi, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati on September 6 said the commission reserved the right to make changes without being directed by any of the political groups.
“Please note that the commission is an independent constitutional body, which as per Article 249 of the Constitution shall not be subject to direction or control by any person or authority,” Chebukati said in his letter to Tuju.
“It is therefore unacceptable for you to provide a list of staff that you direct us not to consider for the project team.”
The business community looks forward to conclusion of the elections to restore normalcy in the economy. The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) estimates that the country’s economy has lost Sh21.3 billion ($210 million) since the Supreme Court ruling, as investors adopted a wait-and-see attitude. – Written by Allan Akombo
Twists And Turns Of Nigeria’s Election Campaign Trail
The political atmosphere in Nigeria leading up to the February polls is tense. Challenging the status quo are new and younger contenders promising hope and change.
As the 2019 elections draw close in February in Africa’s most populous country, Atiku Abubakar has emerged the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while President Muhammadu Buhari has been affirmed for the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) ticket.
Abubakar, a former vice president of Nigeria, has begun his campaign against president Buhari by highlighting the popular frustration of Nigerians over the rise in unemployment and poverty (two of the biggest voter concerns) on Buhari’s watch,as well as growing insecurity in central Nigeria.
Nigeria was recently voted the world’s poverty capital by the Brookings Institution. Consequently, the handling of the economy has already emerged as a major issue at the start of the election cycle.
In 2016, the country entered its first recession in 25 years due to a slump in oil prices and attacks in the Niger Delta oil-producing region. Although emerging out of recession in 2017, growth still remains tardy and inflation is just above the central bank’s single-digit target range.
Investor sentiment in the country is also low especially with leading telco giant MTN Nigeria being ordered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to return $8.1 billion to the country claiming it was illegally repatriated from Nigeria.
“If the fine is found to be unjustly imposed, it would have a negative implication on the image of Nigeria as a destination for foreign investors. Investors only invest in environments that have laws that protect them. If people are punished when they have not done anything wrong, that destroys investor confidence,” says Bismarck Rewane, CEO of Financial Derivatives, an economic think tank in Lagos.
This will be the fourth attempt by Abubakar to win a presidential election mirroring Buhari’s 2015 elections win. He defected from the ruling APC party and re-joined PDP to win the presidential ticket. In a speech in London, Abubakar unveiled his plans to offer a matching grant of $250 million each to the 36 states of the federation to challenge them to enhance their internally generated revenue (IGR).
Meanwhile,just as the election was shaping up to be a contest between two male political veterans, Obiageli Ezekwesili, a woman with a strong track record in economic leadership has announced her presidential candidacy for the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).
Ezekwesili,who is the co-founder of the #bringbackourgirls movement, is perhaps the most prominent woman to challenge for the top job.
Her campaign for the return of the 276 Chibok girls kidnapped in northern Nigeriain 2014 by Boko Haram sparked worldwide support and led to the return of more than 100 girls to their families.
Ezekwesili also served as the country’s education minister and Vice-President of the World Bank. In a speech to her party, Ezekwesili said the two men she faces represent a “mediocre political class that bumbles from one crisis to another”. Her campaign strategy is to position herself as the candidate bringing hope back to Nigeria by challenging the status quo.
Also as part of her strategy, Ezekwesili, 55, is trying to appeal to Nigeria’s youth by highlighting the lack of understanding of technological advances happening in the country by her challengers, Buhari, 75, and Abubakar, 71.
However, in spite of her immense appeal, perhaps the youth might just need a candidate of their own who understands their needs and can speak for a nation where more than 50% are under the age of 30.
They may just have their wish. A welcome development to this election is the reduction of the age by which Nigerians can contest the election for public office.
The bill, popularly referred to as the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill, reduces the age qualification for president from 40 to 35; governor from 35 to 30; senator from 35 to 30; House of Representatives membership from 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly membership from 30 to 25.
Bukunyi Olateru-Olagbegi, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and an up-and-coming political leader, has taken advantage of this new window to register his own political party, Modern Democratic Party. The party is putting education at the top of its agenda and calling for the youth of Nigeria to stand together and have a unified voice.
“We offer hope. Ours is a generation that is young, bold and open to possibilities. We believe that if hope can be returned to the heart of the common man/woman, they may once again start to believe in things becoming better. Right now, a lot of parties sing the word ‘hope’ and yet their internal democracy itself is hopeless,” he says.
“The masses are not blind. They see the internal wrangling in these political parties on the pages of newspapers. How then can they truly believe in a message of hope by these same people? Our youthfulness and firm grasp of the complexities and blistering pace of the world we live in today, easily make us,in our opinion, fit to lead. We understand the power of flexibility and we understand what ‘change’ really means. The world needs the youth right now, and we are finally ready to step up.”
He says his party is committed to building a structure capable of winning elections across all political spheres and levels with a resolution to put a spotlight on the downtrodden in society, a society that, according to Olateru-Olagbeji, is in critical need of deliverance from bad leadership.
“As a party, we hope to correct the present for the sake of the future; we hope to harness the mental and resources of my generation with fresh ideas and innovation because this generation is not tied to the prejudices and biases of the ones before us, we don’t see tribe, religion and even gender; we are united in our hunger for success. We hope to inspire a generation of young Nigerians and Africans to work at building our nation and continent, community by community, till we become the leading and ruling party,” he says.
The political atmosphere leading up to February is extremely tense.
No matter who is contending for the top job, one thing is certain,Nigerians need a new economy, one that provides them with opportunities for growth and prosperity, and they need that, yesterday.
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