8 September 2017

Kenya: The Only Result Acceptable to Odinga Is the One Where He Is Declared President


Kenya's Supreme Court made history when it nullified the results of the August 8 election in which President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who had come to epitomise the boy who cried wolf, has now been vindicated, it would seem. Why then has he rejected the date for the rerun of the presidential election?

Considering his modus operandi in the years leading up to the elections, the Supreme Court has just played into his hands.

He will give the Kenyan people another run-around over the commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) like he did after he lost the 2013 polls.

And no IEBC will be good enough unless they declare the only result acceptable to him - Odinga as president.

Although much attention has been on the majority judgment that annulled the election, the dissenting judgment from two of the six Supreme Court judges lies evidence of intrigue.

The dissenting judgment says the petition was worthy of dismissal. Justice JB Ojwang, contrary to Chief Justice Maraga, found that the nullification of the results is a blatant disregard for the will of the Kenyan people.

Court judgments are to be respected and indeed set precedence, but in the case of highly contested polls such as those in Kenya, the judiciary often finds itself as a pawn in a political chess game.

Odinga has contested for the presidency in a number of polls including in 2007 when election violence broke out, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands, as well as in 2013 when he petitioned the Supreme Court to no avail. In each of these instances, Odinga has accused the incumbent governments of rigging.

As prime minister, Odinga was at the forefront of pushing through the adoption of a new constitution for Kenya in 2010. This is the constitution that introduced numerous reforms, including the setting up of a new electoral authority.

The first IEBC which presided over the 2013 elections was established under Odinga's watch. At the time, Odinga had praised the new body.

Following his defeat in 2013 and his failed bid to nullify those election results, Odinga and his Cord party launched a smear campaign against the IEBC, finally leading to the resignation of chairman Isaack Hassan.

Under public pressure and calls from opposition, the IEBC commissioners were removed and a new set of commissioners appointed.

This was all orchestrated by Odinga, who claimed that he wanted to ensure a clean presidential election in 2017 that would reflect and uphold the will of the people. He won the sympathy of many, not only in Africa but around the world, and all eyes were on Kenya on August 8.

While piling pressure on the new commission, Odinga also primed his supporters to believe that any outcome other than a victory for him would be a stolen election.

The country was thrown into a frenzy of uncertainty as Odinga's supporters and sympathisers in civil society cast a shadow over election results, calling it a stolen election even before the IEBC had even announced the results. The IEBC had no chance against this ambush.

Odinga's strategy, as it has been in the past, was to fight his battle in the court of national and international public opinion. His is always to appear the victim of a perpetual plot to keep him from ascending to the presidency.

His next step is to tarnish the credibility of independent institutions, undermining their integrity and to hold himself up as the only credible voice and final arbiter of the will of the Kenyan people.

Before petitioning the court, Odinga had vowed not to take the legal route so as to cast doubt on the credibility of the court process given his experience of 2013. Perhaps this is what twisted the arm of the majority of the judges. But Odinga has now pitted the judiciary against the will of the people.


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