U.S.-Based Kenyan Scholars Spar Over Election Outcome
The fierce contest between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition candidate Raila Odinga since their discarded election in August found echo here in Atlanta between Nairobi’s ambassador to Washington and a prominent U.S.-based legal scholar.
“I can categorically say here looking you straight in the eye that the Supreme Court robbed Uhuru Kenyatta of his win and stole the election from the Kenyan people,” Ambassador Robinson Njeru Githae was reported to say.
Not so, responded Makua Mutua, a human rights advocate and former dean at the University at Buffalo Law School.
“It was not just the presidential election that was invalid,” Prof Mutua said. “It was the entire election. The whole thing was rotten.”
The Supreme Court’s judgment on Sept. 1, overturning official election results, shocked Kenyans, Africans and many in the Diaspora for having upheld the claims by Mr. Odinga of grave irregularities including the torture murder of Chris Msando, the main technician in charge of the electronic voter-ID system. The judges ruled the voting exercise “invalid, null and void”.
The Economist magazine called the court ruling “a display of judicial independence” without precedent. “It represents an opportunity—so optimists believe—to build genuine trust in the country’s institutions, especially its highest courts.”
Mr. Odinga concurred. “The fact that a court of essentially conservative, establishment jurists overturned an election in Africa for the first time, makes us extremely proud. They have established a position that is going to reverberate throughout Africa.”
In a speech given in English, Mr Kenyatta called for the decision to be respected. But in comments to supporters made in Swahili, he denounced the judges as “wakora” (crooks) and claimed that their decision was the work of “whites” and “homosexuals”. He vowed to “fix” the Supreme Court if re-elected.
According to the cancelled polls, Mr Kenyatta had a 1.3 million-vote margin over Mr Odinga. Voters will now return to the voting booths on Oct. 17 for the voting rematch although Mr. Odinga has added new demands – suspending six senior officials and hiring a new contractor to print ballot papers. Without these, Mr. Odinga warned, the rematch may be scotched.
The Sept. 8-9 event was organized by the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association (KESSA) based in Bowling Green State University. Mr. F. George Njoroge, the keynote speaker, addressed “Commercializing Science in Africa through Biotechnology) .