Kenya’s Supreme Court on Friday nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win last month and called for new elections within 60 days, shocking a country that had been braced for further protests by opposition supporters.
No Kenya presidential election has ever been nullified.
“It’s a very historic day for the people of Kenya and by extension the people of Africa,” said opposition candidate Raila Odinga, who had challenged the vote. “For the first time in the history of African democratization, a ruling has been made by a court nullifying irregular election of a president. This is a precedent-setting ruling.”
The six-judge bench ruled 4-2 in favor of the petition filed by Odinga. He has claimed that the electronic voting results were hacked into and manipulated in favor of Kenyatta, who had won a second term with 54 percent of the vote.
“A declaration is hereby issued that the presidential election held on Aug. 8 was not conducted in accordance to the constitution and applicable law, rendering the results invalid, null and void,” Chief Justice David Maraga said.
The court did not place any blame on Kenyatta or his party. It said the election commission “committed illegalities and irregularities … in the transmission of results, substance of which will be given in the detailed judgment of the court” later on.
The lead counsel for the president, Ahmednassir Abdulahi, told the court that the nullification was a “very political decision” but said they will live with the consequences.
Odinga’s lawyer had asked the court to invalidate Kenyatta’s win, saying a scrutiny of the forms used to tally the votes had anomalies that affected nearly 5 million votes.
Kenya’s electoral commission had said there was a hacking attempt but it failed. International election observers had said they saw no interference with the vote.
Odinga, a longtime opposition candidate and the son of Kenya’s first vice president, had unsuccessfully challenged the results of the 2013 vote that Kenyatta, the son of the country’s first president, won. Odinga’s supporters at first had said they would not go to court again this time but filed a petition two weeks ago.
Kenya had been braced for further protests Friday as the court prepared to rule on the opposition’s challenge, with police deployed to sensitive areas of the capital, Nairobi, and streets near the court barricaded. Human rights groups have said police killed at least 24 people in unrest that followed the Aug. 8 vote.
Instead, opposition supporters exploded in celebration.
“Thank you, Jesus!” one woman shouted. “I’m telling, God is on our side.”
Unease around the election rose when the official who oversaw the electronic voting system was found tortured and killed days before the vote. But the unrest following the vote was far calmer than the post-election violence a decade ago that left more than 1,000 people dead.