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
IN PICTURES | Looking Back At The Vibe Of The South African Elections
FORBES AFRICA’s photojournalists immortalize the tension and elation of the South African elections in May that saw the African National Congress win for the sixth time since 1994.
In what was a landmark 25 years since the first democratic elections, South Africa registered, voted and elected the African National Congress (ANC) for the sixth time to govern the nation again for the next five years. The 2019 elections saw many surprises and plenty more political action compared to the previous polls.
In the run-up to election day, political parties (48 in all) emphasized the country’s socio-economic challenges such as unemployment, education, housing and the contentious issue of land expropriation.
On May 8, the day the country cast its vote, voters woke early to congregate and line up at the 22,924 voting stations strewn across the country.
I was among them, a citizen also doubling as a photojournalist on the quest to document this historic election, my camera strapped around my neck and my constant companion.
This Wednesday morning was particularly cold but voters were in sweaters and armed with their identity books to have a say in South African politics with an ‘X’ mark on the ballot paper.
Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), was among those at the Presbyterian Church in Dobsonville, Soweto; the township where he was born.
His arrival created a frenzy as international and local media wrestled with each other for the perfect shot.
After casting his vote and walking out of the church, he addressed the public.
“On such a historic day, it is important to vote in Soweto with the people of Soweto to express hope and a future for our country. Soweto, to me, represents the home of where the struggle is and now we’re entering into a new struggle for jobs for many South Africans. I remember, vividly and well, when I played in these streets and I remember too well the release of Nelson Mandela, therefore today, I urge that we come and cast our votes,” Maimane said.
He spoke about the new struggle.
“To me, there could be nothing more special, nothing more historic than being able to express our future. Vote for the future of this country and for the unemployed South Africans; it’s a new struggle and we are fighting for the protection of freedom and advancement of freedom.”
Post the election results, Maimane was the first DA leader to not have grown more supporters, whereas the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), with the third highest number of votes, gained more in all South African provinces except the Northern Cape.
A few kilometers from Dobsonville is Mzimhlophe Hostel. A hostel among many others in Soweto that erupted with service delivery protests prior to the elections. On election day, it was more peaceful and locals were going about their daily lives.
In the same vicinity is a squatter camp (informal settlement) allegedly set on fire weeks before the elections.
Residents and brothers Mduduzi (32) and Kwenzi Gwala (22) came to Johannesburg looking for employment.
“This is my first time voting this year; I wish the economy could strengthen so we can move out of the squatter camps and live in houses. Our camp burned around the Easter holidays while we were at church. We used to sell African beer and our stock got burned along with the money and clothes that were inside. All we have is what we are wearing now,” Kwenzi says.
About 12 kilometers away was where national president and president of the ANC Cyril Ramaphosa cast his vote in his hometown of Chiawelo, at a local primary school.
The supporters of various parties, the media and voters were out in full force to witness their president in Soweto.
“The nation and the people are energized. They can see their votes are heralding a new dawn. This is a vote that reminds me of 1994 when the people were just as excited as this because they were heralding a new period, a new future for our country,” said Ramaphosa.
“Today, this is what I am picking up, our people are excited about what lies tomorrow and they want to vote for a government that is going to serve them, that is going to address their needs and aspirations. So, I am truly humbled by the turnout that I’ve seen here.
“There is a great vibe and it’s a vibe for democracy, it’s a vote also for our democratic system that we’ve been building over the last 25 years. So, 25 years later, we still have a nation that is breathing confidence and excitement casting their vote. Today, I will go home to sleep very peacefully like I did last night.
“This vote is about confidence, it is about the future and it is about us that are going to be elected to work a lot harder, much harder than we have in the past to realize the ideals, wishes and hopes of our people, so this, to me, is like a rocket booster for democracy and we are going to build a great country because we will be doing so standing on the shoulders of our people,” Ramaphosa said.
Like the DA, the ANC lost more supporters nationally; Gauteng province was the gold prize, for the first time since 1999, the ANC had to battle to remain above 50% to secure the province.
May Will Be Gone In June Ending Months Of Political Battering And Speculation
British Prime Minister Teresa May – just under three years into the job – says she will step down on June 7.
This follows a hammering, from both sides of the house, over her clumsy handling of the Brexit process. She has lost countless votes in Parliament over a Brexit deal and was seen by many in politics as weak and dithering. It is ironic that May herself voted to keep Britain in Europe, only to see her career expire as she struggled to make the opposite happen.
Her heartfelt farewell speech on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street concluded that she had done her best to make Britain a better place not merely for the privileged few, but also for the whole population.
The supreme irony is that her shuffling off of the Prime Minister’s job will see the shuffling in one of Britain’s best known members of the privileged few. Eton and Oxford educated Boris Johnson is likely to step in as leader of May’s Conservative party ahead of what surely is going to be a snap election.
Poll Position: The South African 2019 Elections
May 8, a landmark day for Africa’s second biggest economy. South Africans will cast their votes for the country’s sixth general elections since the dawn of democracy in 1994.
In the run-up to the polls, the country saw flagrant protests in some parts, as disgruntled citizens expressed disapproval of their stifling living conditions.
In this image, a resident of Alexandra, a township in the north of Johannesburg, squats in the middle of a busy road leading to the opulent precincts of Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile.
The dichotomy of socio-economic circumstances is an accelerant in one of the country’s poorest communities filled to the brim with squatter camps and the restlessness of unemployment.
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