Kenya’s Giant Step for Fair Elections – New York Times

Raila Odinga speaking to supporters in Nairobi on Sunday. Credit Daniel Irungu/European Pressphoto Agency

The Kenyan Supreme Court’s courageous decision to nullify the re-electionof President Uhuru Kenyatta is a critical first for Kenya and Africa, demonstrating that democratic institutions are capable of acting independently and resolving disputes that in the past have often spilled over into violence.

The ruling was also a rebuke to international monitors and diplomats — and to this page — who were too quick to dismiss charges of irregularities, largely out of relief that the Aug. 8 voting had been mainly peaceful and in the hope that disappointment with the results would not lead to the sort of violence that erupted after the disputed 2007 election, in which hundreds of people were killed.

The fears were real, but the rush to judgment overlooked, among other things, that the supervisor of a new electronic voting system, Christopher Chege Msando, had been murdered and apparently tortured days before the election.

The six-judge Supreme Court, acting on a petition from the challenger, Raila Odinga, ruled that the breakdown of the system in which ballots were to be transferred to a publicly accessible online site rendered the results of the presidential election “invalid, null and void” and ordered another election within 60 days. The court said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which was in charge of the vote, committed “irregularities and illegalities” in the transmission of results and on other issues. The elections to fill another 1,880 posts were left in force.

The court did not implicate President Kenyatta, who had been declared victor by a comfortable 54 percent of the vote. Mr. Kenyatta, while arguing that the judges had acted against the will of the people, declared he would respect the ruling and called on Kenyans to remain peaceful. That is something both Mr. Kenyatta, who is from the dominant Kikuyu group, and Mr. Odinga, a Luo, must repeatedly demand from their followers as Kenya once again plunges into a charged period of renewed campaigning.

They, and the monitors and observers following the election, must also show that they fully respect and support institutions of democratic governance and the rule of law. We had said after Mr. Kenyatta’s re-election had been initially confirmed that challenging it was a matter of sour grapes that could lead to ethnic strife. But preserving peace is best served by ensuring that democratic rules and institutions are respected, and Mr. Odinga’s charge deserved, and got, full consideration.

The Kenyan Supreme Court has done a major service to democracy and the rule of law, and has provided a needed lesson to international observe

Source: New York Times