After a bruising and noisy campaign, Kenyans went to the polls in August to elect their President. According to the pollsters, this was one of the closest elections. Millions voted peacefully, and as always believed their voices would count.
As is their custom, election observers, notably the European Union Observer Mission and the Carter Centre, found the election to be largely free and fair. Foreign missions were quick to congratulate the people of Kenya for a peaceful election. The will of the people was upheld and democracy was on the march.
Raila Odinga, leader of the National Super Alliance, refused to concede defeat. Odinga claimed the election was rigged. Initially the leaders said they would not file a petition at the Supreme Court to challenge the election results. A country with a history of post-election violence was on edge again.
Fast-forward, the opposition was persuaded to file a petition to challenge the outcome of the presidential election. The petition was premised on two critical issues.
First, that the presidential election was not conducted in accordance with the principles laid down by the Constitution and election laws. Second, there were irregularities and illegalities committed in the conduct of the 2017 election.
In a ruling that stunned the nation and the world, restored confidence in our courts and made law students and young lawyers proud, the Supreme Court declared the 2017 presidential election invalid, null and void. Chief Justice David Maraga also declared that incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, the third respondent in the petition, was not validly declared President, and, hence, the declaration by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman was invalid, null and void.
The court directed the IEBC to organise and conduct a fresh Presidential election in strict conformity with the Constitution and election laws within 60 days. “It is so ordered,” Justice Maraga declared.
First, Kenyans have very little faith in public institutions. We don’t trust our justice system. The police and judges have a price.
Second, we are a society where corruption is neither immoral nor criminal.
Third, elections and politics are a zero-sum game.
The scale of the irregularities and illegalities in the manner in which the IEBC conducted the election suggests that Kenyan citizens, acting in their private and official capacity, were compromised. Bribes were given and taken. I have said that as a society we are gravely deficient in trust, moral standing and integrity.
What has been revealed about the 2017 election validates the disturbing findings of the Kenya youth survey.
The survey revealed that young Kenyans were highly inclined to corruption, rule violation (impunity) and electoral fraud.
Ours is a case of a rotten barrel causing to rot every new harvest of apples. We must reflect deeply on the words of Chief Justice Maraga; “The greatness of a nation lies in its fidelity to its institutions and strict adherence to the rule of the law, and above all the fear of God.”
Dr. Alex O. Awiti is the director of the East African Institute at Aga Khan University