Kenya court upholds Uhuru Kenyatta’s poll win

Supreme court declares March 4 presidential polls credible, dismissing challenge by runner-up Raila Odinga.

Image Source: Daily Nation

March 31,2013 (Aljazeera) Kenya’s chief justice has announced that the country’s Supreme Court has upheld the result of the country’s March 4 presidential poll, won by Uhuru Kenyatta.

The six-member bench in Nairobi was hearing legal challenges to Kenyatta’s win lodged by the opposition, led by Raila Odinga, the former prime minister who finished second in the poll.

At least two people were killed and six wounded in clashes in the western town of Kisumu following the announcement, the Kenyan Red Cross said.

The country’s outgoing president had called for calm before Saturday’s decision, which confirmed the victory of Kenya’s richest man Kenyatta, and precluded the possibility of a run-off vote.

Defeated candidate Raila Odinga and civil society groups had said the March 4 poll was marred by technical problems and widespread rigging. In a statement issued after the verdict was announced, Odinga said that he would fully respect the court’s decision, and wished his rival Kenyatta well in his term as president.

“It is the decision that the third and fourth respondents were validly elected,” Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said in court, referring to Kenyatta and his running mate and deputy president William Ruto.

The court said that the bench hearing the case was unanimous in its decision to declare that the elections had been conducted in a “free, fair, transparent and credible manner in compliance with the constitution and all relevant provisions of the law”.

All petitions challenging the result were dismissed.

Week of hearings

Saturday’s verdict – following a week of hearings – means that Kenyatta will be sworn in as president on April 9, reported Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri from the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Kenyatta will become the second sitting president in Africa to face charges at the International Criminal Court.

He and Ruto both face charges related to post-election violence in 2007 and 2008. Both deny the charges.

Ruto’s trial is due to begin in late May, and Kenyatta’s in July. Kenyatta has pledged that he will face the charges at The Hague.

The 2007 election had been marred by post-poll violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

Peaceful voting this time around and the fact that the dispute was being played in the courtroom and not settled by machete-wielding gangs, has already helped settle frayed nerves in East Africa’s largest economy.

Some of Odinga’s supporters who were attempting to get close to the Supreme Court building on Saturday were beaten back by police, using batons and tear gas, but by and large the response to the verdict had been peaceful, Al Jazeera’s Moshiri reported, with the exception of the clashes in Kisumu.

“The court has now spoken,” Odinga said in a brief news conference following the verdict, adding that while he might not agree with all its decisions his faith in the constitution “remains supreme”.

Salim Lone, an adviser to Odinga, said that while the prime minister accepted the ruling, he was still concerned that the vote was flawed.

“The PM has reaffirmed his conviction that the election was deeply flawed, and that the struggle to bring transparency and accountability to the electoral process would be a central priority in his drive to change the nature of Kenya’s politics,” Lone told Al Jazeera.

Run-off avoided

Jubilant Kenyatta supporters flooded the streets of Nairobi’s business district, honking horns, blowing the noisy plastic horns known as a vuvuzelas and chanting slogans.

In a televised address to the nation, Kenyatta thanked Odinga for wishing him well.

“I want to assure all Kenyans … that my government will work with and serve all Kenyans without any discrimination whatsoever,” Kenyatta said.

The president-elect comfortably beat Odinga in terms of votes won, with 50.07 percent versus 43.28 percent, but only narrowly avoided a run-off after winning just 8,100 votes more than the 50 percent needed to be declared the winner outright.

In the Supreme Court’s hearing on Friday, the legal teams reviewed results of recounts ordered in 22 of the 33,400 polling stations after Odinga said more votes were cast than registered voters.

It is unclear what effect Kenyatta’s win will have on European and North American relations with Kenya. Western nations have a policy of maintaining only “essential contacts” with indictees of the court.

They say that will not affect dealings with the government as a whole, but they still face a delicate balancing act to avoid driving a long-time ally of the West closer to emerging powers such as China.

 

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