6 November 2017

Africa: From Kenya to Liberia, the Judiciary Getting Bolder in Fragile African Democracies?

Photo: Facebook/NEC Liberia
The Supreme Court in Liberia has halted the second runoff elections that were to be held on the 7th of November following a petition to look into the first round of elections.

The nullification of the August 8 elections in by the Supreme Court of Kenya, was celebrated as a welcome precedent and Liberia has followed suit. The Liberian Supreme Court suspended the run-off election scheduled to take place on November 7, citing irregularities in the first round of elections that took place on October 10. The move is been applauded as a step in the right direction to ensure free, fair and credible polls.

The nullification of the August 8 elections by the Supreme Court of Kenya was unprecedented, in Kenya and indeed Africa. In a continent where the judiciary system favours the political class in power, the nullification of the elections came as a shock and marked a new era in the advancement of democracy not just in Kenya but on the continent.

Chief Justice David Maraga, the President of the Supreme Court of Kenya stated that elections were not an event but a process. The nullification of the Kenyan elections was celebrated by many on the continent and seen as a pacemaker for other countries to emulate. Considering that the elections were ratified by various international electoral monitoring bodies as free and fair, the decision of the court sent a signal that African matters could be handled by Africans.

Just recently, Liberia conducted its presidential elections. The results were not conclusive and a run-off was scheduled for November 7 between George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai. The elections have however been halted following a Supreme Court order after a challenge by Charles Brumskine from the Liberty Party. Brumskine came third in the first round of elections held on October 10.

The October 10 elections have however been said to have been marred by irregularities. Brumskine, the petitioner of the elections said, "the process was completely corrupted. We now realise elections were lost long before election day."

The Supreme court has ruled that the anticipated run-off vote will not be held until the National Elections Commission (NEC) completes its investigations into fraud allegations.

Read: Liberia: Will George Weah win as he contests for the second time?

The decision made by the Kenyan and Liberian courts over poll irregularities have been applauded as a step in the right direction. The is certainly hope that the trend of taking matters to the courts will be sustained.

Liberian party candidate, Charles Brumskine asked the Supreme Court to freeze the November 7 runoff elections following inconsistencies in the first round of elections. Photo: Facebook/CharlesRumskine

The courts seem to be the last place where democracy on the continent can be salvaged. The age of impunity and disregard for court orders might as well be coming to an end, though gradually.

With elections soon taking place in other African countries, the courts are saddled with the tasks of upholding the constitution and defending democracy. For a country like Liberia, a fragile democracy slowly recovering after a protracted civil war, there is no better time to start building good electoral, constitutional and democratic practices.

Read: George Weah is not yet president as Liberia sets for runoff elections

The narrative that should dominate our political climes shouldn't just be about the provision of basic service provisions such as water and electricity, but also about truth, justice, freedom and the sacredness of the constitution.

Tags: #KenyaDecides2017African democracyelectionsKenya Supreme CourtLiberia

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