Kenya’s Supreme Court on Friday nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win, citing irregularities, and ordered a new poll within 60 days, an unprecedented move in Africa where governments often hold sway over judges.
According to what Reuters reported, the ruling, broadcast to a stunned nation on television, sets up a new race between Kenyatta, 55, and veteran opponent Raila Odinga, 72.
Kenyatta called for calm and respect for the ruling and said he would run again in a televised speech. But he later struck a more combative note, criticizing the court for ignoring the will of the people and dismissing the chief justice’s colleagues as “wakora” (crooks).
In Odinga’s western heartland, cheering supporters paraded through the streets chanting and waving tree branches.
A row over a 2007 poll, which Odinga challenged after being declared loser, was followed by weeks of ethnic bloodshed that killed more than 1,200 people. Kenya’s economy, the biggest in the region, slid into recession and neighboring economies wobbled.
Chief Justice David Maraga announced the Supreme Court’s verdict that was backed by four of the six judges, saying the declaration of Kenyatta’s victory was “invalid, null and void”. Details of the ruling will be released within 21 days.
In the court room, a grinning Odinga pumped his fist in the air. Outside, shares plummeted on the Nairobi bourse amid the uncertainty, while Kenyatta’s supporters grumbled. But the mood on the streets of the capital was jubilant rather than angry.
Judges said they found no misconduct by Kenyatta but said the election board “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.”
Official results had given Kenyatta 54.3 percent of the vote, compared to Odinga’s 44.7 percent, a lead of 1.4 million votes. Kenyatta’s ruling party also swept the legislature. Those results triggered angry protests and at least 28 people died in the police clamp-down that followed.