Raila Odinga, the losing candidate for president of Kenya, submitted a petition to the highest court in the country on Monday, challenging the results of the election that took place on August 9. He referred to this endeavor as a “war for democracy and good government.” Odinga, a seasoned opposition leader who campaigned for president with the support of President Uhuru Kenyatta and the ruling party, has declared that the election result, which gave victory to his opponent William Ruto, is a “travesty.” He did this by rejecting the outcome of the vote.
The veteran politician, now 77 years old, was unsuccessful in his fifth run for president, falling short by a close margin of approximately 230,000 votes, or less than two percentage points. Outside of the Supreme Court, dozens of boxes of evidence were unloaded from a truck, which was met with cheers from the hundreds of supporters who had gathered there. “We have sufficient information to suggest that it was our team that prevailed in the election. Unfortunately, the election was not one of which we can be proud.” Following the filing of the petition, Odinga addressed a press conference.
Without providing any further specifics, he stated that the outcome of the vote marked a “continuous struggle pitting the forces of democracy and decent governance against the corruption cartels that will stop at nothing to take control of the government.” We said, “What we’ve done shows how strongly we believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disagreements.”
Even though voting day went off without a hitch, the release of the results one week ago provoked heated protests in several Odinga strongholds. There are fears that a drawn-out argument may escalate to violence in a country that has a history of post-election turmoil. Voting day itself was quiet. Since 2002, every presidential election in Kenya has been contested, and the results of this year’s election caused a divide inside the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which was in charge of overseeing the election.
A copy of the appeal, which is 72 pages long, states that Odinga’s team claims that IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati did not properly count almost 140,000 ballots. Ruto “did not meet the constitutional threshold of 50% plus 1 of the valid votes cast,” which is a necessity for him to be proclaimed the victor of the election. As a consequence, Ruto “did not satisfy the constitutional barrier.” The judges have a total of 14 days to make a decision. In the event that they decide to order an annulment, a fresh vote needs to be held within the next sixty days.
Hours before Odinga was scheduled to arrive at the courthouse, his supporters started congregating outside the building, where they blew whistles and waved signs that read “We want justice now!” and “Electoral Justice Now!” One man, who was wearing a crown made of plants and who was referring to a monthly cash handout for disadvantaged households, stated, “Odinga must win so that we get the 6,000 shillings ($50) promised in his platform.”
While officers stood watch at the courthouse, another man, this one armed with a Bible and sporting enormous green glasses, knelt down to pray inside the building. According to a court clerk, the tribunal had also received eight further petitions regarding the results. These petitions have been submitted by voters, politicians, and non-profit organizations. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was under a lot of pressure to deliver a clean vote after receiving severe criticism for how it handled the election that took place in August of 2017, which was also contested by Odinga.
In an unprecedented move for the continent, the court declared that election invalid and ordered a new round of voting, which Odinga refused to participate in. During a crackdown on demonstrations by the police, dozens of people were killed. In a surprising turn of events that occurred just before the announcement of the results of this year’s election, four of the IEBC’s seven commissioners accused the chairman of the commission, Chebukati, of operating an “opaque” operation and later stated that the figures did not line up. Chebukati denied the accusations and said that he had done everything he was supposed to do by the law, even though he was being “harassed and threatened.”
There is disagreement amongst those who specialize in the law on whether or not Chebukati needs the backing of the commissioners in order to declare the results. Constitutional lawyer Charles Kanjama stated that there was “some ambiguity” surrounding the subject. Odinga has stated in the past that he was cheated out of victory in the elections that took place in 2007, 2013, and 2017. People are paying close attention to the election results because they are a test of how democratic the East African giant has become.
On the campaign trail, both of the leading candidates made the commitment to settle any disagreements through legal channels rather than in the streets. Since the results were announced, Odinga has complimented his followers for “remaining calm,” while Ruto has taken a more conciliatory tone and offered to “operate with all leaders.”
After the election in 2007, Kenya experienced some of its worst electoral violence, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,100 people as a result of politically motivated confrontations between competing clans. In the event that the results are upheld by the Supreme Court, William Ruto will become Kenya’s fifth president since the country gained its independence from Britain in 1963. He will be in charge of a country that is dealing with high unemployment and inflation rates, as well as a terrible drought.