Kenya’s Supreme Court judges plan to give details on Tuesday of their ruling that confirmed the victory of Uhuru Kenyatta in last month’s presidential election.
“The Kenyans are really waiting [for] what explanation the Supreme Court is going to give, because this explanation will actually determine whether in 2017 [vote], anybody will want to file a petition in the Supreme Court,” said James Mwamu, president of the East Africa Law Society.
“If a good explanation is not going to come from the Supreme Court, I foresee that in 2017 people will say we will not go to that court at all,” Mwamu said.
The Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC) declared Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the country's founding leader, president-elect with 50.07 percent of the March 4 vote, enough to avoid a runoff.
But former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) challenged the election results, citing what it said were voter irregularities. Odinga, however, accepted the ruling of the court after all of the six judges unanimously upheld Kenyatta’s victory.
Mwamu says Kenyans also are expecting to know how the biometric voter identification system failed during the general election.
“I will want to see how the Supreme Court is going to justify this issue of free and fair [election], when their own audit revealed that there were a series of anomalies in the manner in which the elections were conducted, yet they came out with a verdict that it was free and fair,” said Mwamu.
He says the explanation needs to be credible following media speculations that some of the justices were either threatened or bribed ahead of the ruling.
Some analysts contend that the explanation of the judges will be an academic exercise, since it will not change the outcome of the presidential vote. Mwamu disagreed saying, the explanation will be significant in how Kenyans view the credibility of the judiciary.
“If the ruling is not credible, people are going to look at the judiciary and say, ‘is this the new judiciary we were expecting to serve the country?’ The other significance this is going to have is, going forward will anybody be able to put their cases to the judiciary and say, ‘I have trusted this institution that it is going to be an impartial and independent arbiter of the cases that we have?’” Mwamu asked.
He says Kenyans would want to have faith in the Supreme Court’s ability to be independent and impartial when the judges rule on cases brought before the court.
“We want to be proud to know that our Supreme Court delivered one of the rulings that can be relied upon by other countries in the years to come,” said Mwamu.
“But, if they deliver a ruling which could have been written by a first year law school student,” he added, “then we would be able to say that really they let us down.”
Clottey interview with James Mwamu, head East Africa Law Society