Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a nationally televised address Saturday the country must “fix” its Supreme Court, which invalidated last month’s presidential election result that showed a Kenyatta victory.
The remark was widely regarded as a veiled threat against Kenya’s top court, though Kenyatta said he would respect the decision and announced he would run again.
“Who even elected you? Were you?” Kenyatta asked, lashing out at the judges who annulled his victory. “We have a problem and we must fix it.”
In a ruling that reverberated across the African continent, Kenya’s top judges ruled Thursday that the results of the Aug. 8 election, which Kenyatta won with 54 percent, a margin of 1.4 million votes, were invalid due to evidence of voting irregularities and improper return tabulations.
Opposition supporters and democracy proponents in Kenya and across the continent cheered the court’s decision and hailed it as a turning point in establishing credible constitutional democracies in Africa.
Kenya is home to one of the most stable sub-Saharan democratic governments and has often been held up as an example for other emerging democracies in the region, though even in Kenya past elections — the most recent included — triggered ethnic violence and civil unrest.
So far, despite his veiled attack against the judges who ruled against him, Kenyatta has called for peace and calm as the nation gears up for a second consecutive presidential campaign.
Still, the call for a re-vote only ups the ante for both sides.
Raila Odinga, the opposition leader and Kenyatta’s primary opponent, has called on the court to replace members of the government-controlled election committee, which facilitated the Aug. 8 vote. The Washington post reported such a move is unlikely prior to the re-vote, which the court said must be held within 60 days.
Odinga has lost four successive presidential elections and his supporters argue the political deck is stacked to prevent him from assuming power. Having the same election officials oversee a second vote could set up the potential for violent clashes if he is again defeated by Kenyatta.
Likewise, Kenyatta is likely to focus his re-election effort on the notion that four judges robbed millions of his supporters, who represent a majority of the country if the previous results are to be believed, of their democratic rights. An Odinga upset could embolden Kenyatta loyalists to turn violent, as well.
Kenyatta hails from the Kikuyu tribe, Kenya’s largest tribe and a dominant political force that has advocated expanding the nation’s economy. Odinga is from the minority Luo tribe and his message railing against government corruption is tailored to the economically disadvantaged. Past post-election violence has broken along those tribal and ideological lines.
By Eric DuVall