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Supreme Court ruling may have prevented an implosion in Kenya

Saturday September 9 2017

From left, Supreme Court Judges Njoki Ndung'u, Smokin Wanjala, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, Chief Justice David Maraga, Jackton Ojwang and Isaac Lenaola at Supreme Court on September 1, 2017. The Supreme Court nullified the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

From left, Supreme Court Judges Njoki Ndung'u, Smokin Wanjala, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, Chief Justice David Maraga, Jackton Ojwang and Isaac Lenaola at Supreme Court on September 1, 2017. The Supreme Court nullified the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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In the countryside where I am presently holed up, the atmosphere is placid. Farmers have just completed bringing in produce from their small plots and the unseasonal cold spell is gradually receding so that they can once more enjoy moving around without worrying that a sudden gust of rain may catch them unawares and leave them sodden. But there is no joy in the air.

Indeed, the apparent placidity belies a very sorry state of affairs because the country’s politics has taken a sudden turn leaving many Kenyans bewildered.

They are smouldering with frustration and barely able to restrain their anger, but they are also determined to thwart the designs of those who robbed their president of clear electoral victory.

There is no persuading them that in some way, the results could have been compromised.

EMOTIONS

These emotions, on one side of the political divide, are understandable. The Supreme Court’s decision to nullify the presidential election results and order a rerun is unprecedented in Africa, indeed, in most parts of the world.

The circumstances are still unclear and they will remain fuzzy until the judges who ruled in favour of nullification explain in detail, as promised, why they arrived at that extraordinary verdict.

It was to be expected that those who support Nasa would exhibit quite different emotions. Those who believe that the only reason the Opposition loses elections is because they are always robbed feel vindicated, which is why they are now on the stumps calling anyone affiliated with jubilee a thief.

That the Court did not name President Kenyatta or Jubilee as the culprits but instead zeroed in on the electoral commission is beside the point.

It would be most unfortunate for Nasa if its leaders turned this euphoria into complacency; there is still the small question of numbers.

WON MANDATE

I, personally, believe President Kenyatta won the mandate of voters with a clear majority, and for saying this, I know I will be pilloried, but until I am convinced otherwise, I have a right to say it. This, of course, will not detract from the outcome, for after all, I have only one vote.

In any case, all this doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we are going to the ballot again, and only a clear outcome will lay to rest all the confusion, tension and hatred that have permeated society.

What matters is that everyone with a vote has a second chance to exercise that right in one year, a right rarely given to many.

The only ominous cloud is the infighting in the IEBC, but that should be sorted out urgently, for there is no time.

Any attempt to derail the rerun calendar must be vigorously resisted.

If those who petitioned the results are to realise their dream of dislodging the president, they now have the chance to make a statement loud enough for the whole world to hear by winning decisively.

In short, they must stop behaving as though they are already in government, prematurely calling all the shots. Jubilee could be justified in feeling that they, and not IEBC, have been punished unjustly over election failures.

INSULT TRADING

On the other hand, the Court ruling may have been a blessing in disguise; it may have, in fact, saved this country from imminent implosion.

It is probable that the campaign ahead will be an insult-trading rematch between Jubilee and Nasa and it will run the whole gamut of calumny, lies, character assassination and outright filth. However, in the end, the ruling will have allowed us to vent our frustrations and hate in a relatively calmer manner — in social media.

The judges probably did it unwittingly. However, considering that many election disputes in Africa end up in turmoil, some good may come out of the judgment.

VICTORY

A loss or victory on the ballot this time round should make physical violence highly unlikely. After all, the world has taken notice and is keenly watching.

In saying this, I may be unduly optimistic — the cathartic effect of repeat presidential polls may weaken with time, and each of the contenders may have a Plan B should they lose.

In that case, the question we must ask is this: Will the contending parties undertake to conduct clean campaigns and accept the results with grace? Do we have to go on with this rigmarole until next year? I don’t believe Kenyans want to go that way.

Magesha Ngwiri is a consultant editor. [email protected]