Picture: Monicah Mwangi/REUTERS – Kenya’s President-elect William Ruto speaks after the Supreme Court upheld his win in Nairobi, Kenya September 5, 2022. The spectre of post-election violence in the East African has faded as Chief Justice Martha Koome dismisses challenge to Ruto’s victory, the writer says.
By Omololu Fagbadebo
As the Kenyan Supreme Court sealed William Ruto’s presidential victory, the spectre of another post-election violence in the East African country faded.
Chief Justice Martha Koome declared, “This is a unanimous decision. The petitions are hereby dismissed, as a consequence we declare the first respondent (Ruto) as president-elect”.
Raila Odinga, the main challenger of the electoral victory of Vice-president Ruto accepted the verdict of the court, even though he said he disagreed with the judgment. “We have always stood for the rule of law and the constitution. In this regard, we respect the opinion of the court although we vehemently disagree with their decision today,” Odinga stated on his Twitter Handle.
A statement shared by his running mate, Martha Karua, stated, “We have always stood for the rule of law and the constitution. In this regard, we respect the opinion of the court although we vehemently disagree with their decision today … This judgement is by no means the end of our movement, in fact, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to transform this country into a prosperous democracy where each and every Kenyan can find their full belonging.”
Unlike the 2007 and 2017 episodes, this position doused the fear of possible incitement. Kenya’s Chief Justice, Martha Koome who delivered the unanimous judgment of the seven justices of the court, dismissed all the allegations of malpractices Odinga adduced to upturn the electoral victory of Ruto. With 7.2 million votes, representing 50.5 percent of total votes in the August 9 general election, Ruto coasted to victory.
With a transparent election administration supervised by the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), it was difficult to fault its outcomes as results were electronically relayed in a public portal. Not even the objection of some members of the IEBC could vitiate the integrity of the result, as the Supreme Court declared that It was an afterthought.
Odinga had relied on the internal squabbles in the IEBC to upturn the electoral victory but the court declared that there was “no credible evidence” for the four commissioners of the electoral body who objected to the result because they participated in the initial collation of the results but withdrew at the “11th hour”. Koome quipped, “Are we to nullify an election on the basis of a last-minute boardroom rupture, the details of which remain scanty and contradictory? This we cannot do.”
It’s a new dawn in Kenyan politics. The people of the country have risen and raised the political bar of peaceful coexistence for the county’s future. Central to this new era in Kenya is the collective resolve of the political class to respect the rule of law even though the outcomes might have worked against their interest.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has not directly acknowledged the victory of his deputy. Even though Ruto is his deputy, they have not spoken to each other in months, according to Ruto. He said, “I haven’t talked to Uhuru Kenyatta in months but shortly I will call him so that we can have a conversation on the process of transition. I know he worked hard in his own way but the people of Kenya have made a decision,“ Ruto said.
This is to show the extent of the gulf between the two political gladiators. Indeed, Kenyatta had to accept the verdict of the supreme court because he pledged to respect the rule of law and would set in motion a smooth transition of power to the president on September 13. He said, “When I was sworn in as your president I made a pledge to the country. A pledge to uphold the rule of law and the decisions made by the Judiciary on all matters pertaining to our governance. Today, the Supreme Court made a ruling on the presidential dispute…It’s my intention to oversee a smooth transition to the next administration and all the necessary orders to facilitate this process have already been issued.”
Like Odinga, he did not agree with the judgment. The court had upturned his initial electoral victory in the 2017 election that he eventually won after a run-off boycotted by his challenger, Odinga, whom he supported against his deputy, Ruto, in the 2022 election.
For the opposition, this is a new political phase that calls for a new strategy and probably, a new political horizon in the collective quest for a new Kenya. The declaration of the Supreme Court has sealed the presidential ambition of Odinga, 77, who had contested and failed to clinch victory five times. With the support that Ruto enjoyed as the leader of the “Hustler Dynasty”, as against the established Odinga and Kenyatta Dynasties, it is almost certain that a new Kenya is emerging.
Ruto welcomed the judgment and pledged to protect the interests of all Kenyans irrespective of their political leaning. “I extend a hand of brotherhood to all my competitors and to all their supporters. We are not enemies, we are Kenyans. Let us unite to make Kenya a nation of which everyone shall be proud to call home”. Ruto’s conciliatory tone since the IEBC announced his victory is an indication of a leader in the pursuit of national healing and unity.
With the retirement of Odinga and Kenyatta, the symbols of the entrenched political dynasties in the country, it is time for Kenyans to ally around and energise the new dawn with all necessary support to build a country that would be an epicentre for peace, stability and economic development. Come Tuesday, September 13, William Ruto needs the support of all patriotic Kenyans, at home and in the diaspora, to lead a country in search of tranquillity.
Ruto has identified with the downtrodden Kenyan citizens and has pledged to champion their cause in governance, as the country grapples with the harsh economic crisis. This is the platform upon which he garnered his support. His displayed sincerity and the circumstances that gave him victory attest to the fact that Ruto is out on a political journey laced with the destiny of a nation. It is, in reality, a new dawn in Kenya.
Dr Omololu Fagbadebo is a Research Fellow in the Department of Public Management, Law and Economics at the Durban University of Technology.