By Nuel Anaba
Celebrations have continued in many parts of Kenya following the Supreme Court’s ruling that nullified the Presidential election on Friday and ordered a re-run in 60 days.
The countdown to the rerun election began in earnest on Friday, with 57 days till Kenyans once again march to the polls in this historic feat that has been described as a first in Africa.
In Odinga’s western heartland, cheering supporters paraded through the streets chanting and waving tree branches.
Kenya’s Supreme Court on Friday nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win, citing irregularities, and ordered a new poll within 60 days, an unprecedented move in Africa where governments often hold sway over the judiciary.
The ruling, broadcast to a stunned nation on television, sets up a new race between Kenyatta, 55, and veteran opponent Raila Odinga, 72.
Kenyatta, looking very pained and defeated called for calm and respect for the ruling and said he would run again in a televised speech.
But he later struck a more combative note, criticizing the court for ignoring the will of the people and dismissing the chief justice’s colleagues as “Wakora” (crooks).
Kenya, a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamists and a trade gateway to East Africa, has a history of disputed votes.
A row over a 2007 poll, which Odinga challenged after being declared loser, was followed by weeks of ethnic bloodshed that killed more than 1,200 people. Kenya’s economy, the biggest in the region, slid into recession and neighboring economies wobbled.
This election too saw at least 20 people killed in protests that broke out after Kenyatta was announced winner.
Observers said most deaths resulted from the use of force by security agencies to deter protesters.
“Invalid, null and void”
Chief Justice David Maraga announced the Supreme Court’s verdict that was backed by four of the six judges, saying the declaration of Kenyatta’s victory was “invalid, null and void”. Details of the ruling will be released within 21 days.
In the court room, a grinning Odinga pumped his fist in the air. Outside, shares plummeted on the Nairobi bourse amid the uncertainty, while Kenyatta’s supporters grumbled. But the mood on the streets of the capital was jubilant rather than angry.
Judges said they found no misconduct by Kenyatta but said the election board “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the Constitution.”
President Kenyatta disagreed with the ruling but said he respects it.
Kenya’s judiciary went through sweeping changes after the 2007 election violence in a bid to restore confidence the legal system. Friday’s ruling is likely to galvanize pro-democracy campaigners across Africa, where many complain their judiciaries simply rubber stamp presidential rule.
“This is a monumental and unprecedented decision, very remarkable and courageous that will be watched carefully with keen interest across the continent,” said Comfort Ero, the head of the Africa program for the Crisis Group think-tank.