After the Supreme Court in Kenya annulled the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta as president, there are fears that the hostility in the East African country will only be intensified.
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.