Politics

Protests In Kenya As Supreme Court Upholds President’s Reelection

Kenya’s Supreme Court decision made earlier on Monday has dismissed the two petitions seeking to invalidate President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win.

Kenya's Supreme Court
By Amanda Lucidon (White House photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Chief Justice David Maraga threw out the cases and said in a short statement to the court that the arguments presented by the petitioners were without merit. The unanimous decision made by the court is a culmination of weeks of instability that followed the original election held on Aug. 8 of this year.

Citing irregularities, Kenya’s Supreme Court invalidated the results of the August election and scheduled a rerun for Oct. 26, in a move that shocked both foreign and local political analysts. The rerun saw President Uhuru Kenyatta win by a landslide – securing 98% of the vote with the turnout at 38%.

The court’s decision was followed by protests all across Kenya, with the largest number of people gathering in the streets of Nairobi, the country’s capital. The New York Times reported that political clashes last week saw several people dead, and the tensions that sprung from the protests have spread to towns all across Kenya.

KBC reported that residents of Migori, a town in Southwestern Kenya, engaged in protests that ended up in a violent confrontation with the local police. Demonstrations also turned extremely violent in Nyanza, the hometown of the opposition candidate Raila Odinga. According to the Daily Nation, Kisumu also saw protestors setting a car ablaze and roads into the Central Business District being blocked with burning tires and rocks.

However, despite the increasingly violent protests currently taking place around Kenya, supporters of the court’s decision have also taken to the streets in celebration. Nakuru and Baringo counties saw traffic come to a standstill as supporters of President Kenyatta flocked to the streets to celebrate. Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala led a group of politicians to the streets of Mombasa immediately after the court’s ruling and urged the residents of the city to put aside their political differences and embrace the final verdict given by the Supreme Court.

Residents of Kajiado, Kiambu, Embu, Kericho, and Maralal, towns located in the Samburu county, also celebrated the court’s decision, claiming that it might be what puts the political uncertainty and damage to the economy to an end.

What happens next?

With President Kenyatta’s inauguration scheduled for Thursday, the time frame for the opposition to react becomes increasingly narrower.

According to Salim Lone, a longtime adviser to Mr. Odinga and his political party, as well as reported by the New York Times, Raila Odinga has left the country. Mr. Lone said that Odinga is now in Zanzibar, off the coast of mainland Tanzania, and has not given any further explanation as to what Mr. Odinga plans on doing next.

What the future holds for such a strongly polarized nation is still unclear. Despite the fact that the official inauguration has been scheduled, President Kenyatta has still not commented on the court’s decision. Mr. Odinga’s absence from the country also still hasn’t affected the opposition. Odinga’s supporters are still holding their ground in many Kenyan cities, with The Daily Nation reporting that many of them said they will not abandon the cause and are patiently awaiting further instructions from Mr. Odinga.

Even though Kenyan police have repeatedly been accused of using excessive force when dealing with Odinga’s supporters, which left at least five people dead last week, people opposing the court’s ruling have repeatedly said they will not support President Kenyatta’s swearing in.

“If they swear in Kenyatta, we hope to swear in Odinga,” George Owino, a Kibera resident, said to the Washington Post.

Whether or not the political unrest will wear out as the inauguration approaches is yet to be seen. Neither President Kenyatta, nor Mr. Odinga have officially addressed the court’s ruling, with their respective parties remaining mostly silent on the issue.

With tensions growing high not only in Nairobi, but in the entire region as well, the announcement that the opposing politicians will make will show the public which way the political situation in Kenya will unfold.