Kenya Supreme Court Ruling Fresh Air for Africa

Published on 5th September 2017

The Supreme Court of Kenya invalidated the outcome of the contentious August 8, 2017 presidential election paving way for a repeat poll. It came as a surprise to many, especially in Africa where institutions serve at the behest of the incumbent and elections rarely offer a transparent process so as to qualify outcomes as the valid will of the electorate. Chief Justice David Maraga and his panel of judges offered fresh air and optimism by demonstrating that institutions can indeed promote a just society. Since the mid-1980s, every African country has held elections of some sort. In most countries, the ruling party uses the state apparatus to buoy its re-election campaign and use democratic processes to sanitize their hold onto power. Opposition parties are treated as a nuisance.  

The ruling brings into sharp focus how Kenya and by extension African countries adhere to dictates of their own constitution and rule of law. It pushes for rigorous discipline in the electoral process by underscoring the fact that procedural failures undermine the core of democracy. It demonstrates that elections are not about personalities but having a winner who is worthy of the title "democratically elected." Political contests dictate that electoral chiefs deliver on basic democratic principles that ensure transparency, fairness and credibility through verifiable processes. The contests require of elected representatives to exercise decision-making power subject to the rule of law and the constitution,

As Kenya prepares for a repeat presidential poll, it is our hope that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will borrow from the Supreme Court approach and offer Kenya a credible electoral process. Functioning institutions will give Kenya the much needed predictability, just environment ideal for peaceful coexistence and attractive to both local and international investors.

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