Supreme Court will be just in presidential petition, says CJ Mutunga

Monday March 11 2013

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga (centre) with the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal at the Supreme Court on December 31, 2012. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga (centre) with the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal at the Supreme Court on December 31, 2012. Photo/FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

By EMMANUEL TOILI [email protected] and AFP

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga on Monday said the Supreme Court will handle the presidential election petition fairly, justly and within the timeline as outlined by the Constitution. Read (Focus turns to court as Cord challenges Uhuru’s election)

Mr Mutunga who was receiving copies of the presidential results of the concluded election from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) also said that six Supreme Court judges will handle the petition.

He said that that the elections were peaceful and also thanked Kenyans of having faith in the Judiciary.

He also requested the media to have a live coverage of the petition during the court proceedings in the interest of justice.

Cord's presidential candidate, Mr Raila Odinga on Sunday assembled a team of lawyers to build a case against the election of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya’s fourth President as declared by the IEBC on Saturday.

The team comprises of senators-elect Amos Wako, Moses Wetang’ula, James Orengo, Mutula Kilonzo and Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba.

The Supreme Court is composed of Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and Judges Smokin Wanjala, Philip Tunoi, Jackton Boma Ojwang’, Mohamed Ibrahim and Njoki Ndung’u.

Mr Odinga is expected to request a "forensic audit of manual and electronic data", including investigations into the alleged "drastic reduction and rise" of votes in some constituencies after the official register was closed, his close aide told AFP.

"Among other things, they are questioning the one million voters who voted only for president and no other position," said a close aide to Odinga, adding that the appeal would likely be filed on Wednesday.

Mr Kenyatta, who avoided a second round run-off vote by the slimmest of margins to win a majority with just 50.07 per cent, beat Odinga -- his closest rival -- by more than 800,000 votes.

Odinga, who got 43.31 per cent in the March 4 poll in his third failed attempt at the top job, has said he will respect the decision of the Supreme Court even if it ruled against him.

He has also called for his supporters to allow the legal process to run its course, warning shortly after Kenyatta was declared president-elect on Saturday that "any violence now could destroy the country forever".

Kenyatta, one of Africa's richest men, faces trial for crimes against humanity in July at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his alleged role in orchestrating the bloody violence following the 2007 contested elections.

More than 1,100 people were killed and over 600,000 fled their homes in one of the worst bouts of ethnic bloodletting in Kenya.

The peaceful conduct of polls has been praised by the international community, who have also urged that disputes over the results must be done through the courts.

Kenya's neighbours as well as China have offered congratulations directly to Kenyatta, with Beijing on Monday saying it wanted to "strengthen cooperation with the new government", foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

African Union commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on Monday saluted the "people of Kenya for the successful and peaceful" elections, and congratulated Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto, who also faces an ICC trial.

But Western nations -- who have a policy of only essential contact with those charged by the ICC -- have praised the Kenyan people while avoiding mention of Kenyatta's win.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated "all those elected to office", a message echoed by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Odinga legally has until Saturday to file his petition -- seven days from the results -- with the Supreme Court then having 14 days to make their ruling.

Kenya's Supreme Court has the power to order a recount, order a whole new election or dismiss the petition.

"We are going to listen to all cases brought before us fairly," Mutunga said Monday.

If the petition is dismissed, Kenyatta would be inaugurated as Kenya's fourth president one week later, suggesting a possible ceremony in early April.

Kenyatta has offered "my older brother" Odinga an olive branch, telling thousands of his loyalists he wanted to work with him "in moving our nation forward."

He also called on his celebrating supporters to be "modest in our victory."

Kenyatta's trial at the ICC opens on July 9, while Ruto's begins on May 28.