Kenya’s Supreme Court yesterday validated the election victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta, sparking opposition protests that left two dead, according to police.
While the court decision led to celebrations in ruling party strongholds, protesters took to the street in opposition areas in the capital and the west of the country.
One protester was killed in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, while a paramedic tending the injured at a demonstration in western Migori was also shot dead, according to police.
The death toll from four months of election chaos now stands at 54, with most protesters killed at the hands of police, according to rights groups.
The protests erupted after the Supreme Court dismissed two petitions seeking to overturn the victory of Kenyatta in October 26 elections, paving the way for him to be sworn in for a second five-year term on November 28.
“The court has unanimously determined that the petitions are not merited. As a consequence, the presidential election of October 26 is hereby upheld as is the election of the third respondent,” Chief Justice David Maraga said, referring to Kenyatta.
Maraga had in September annulled an August election due to “irregularities and illegalities”, a historic decision hailed across the globe as an opportunity to boost Kenyan democracy.
However, the ruling – a rare victory for opposition leader Raila Odinga – only deepened acrimony and protests, leaving the country deeply divided.
Accusing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of failing to make fundamental reforms to improve the vote, Odinga withdrew from last month’s ballot which he urged his followers to boycott.
In the run-up to the vote, a top election official fled the country, saying the poll would not be credible, and IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati himself said he could not guarantee a free and fair election.
Election day was marred by chaos in opposition strongholds, with polling stations unable to open in 25 constituencies.
The boycott handed Kenyatta a landslide victory of 98%, although turnout was only 39%.
This time, Odinga and his National Super Alliance coalition did not go to court to challenge the second election, but a former politician and two rights activists did.
They pointed to procedural questions, the toxic democratic environment, and Chebukati’s own questioning of the process.
However, the six-judge bench dismissed the petitions in a matter of minutes.
In a statement, Odinga said the ruling did not come as a surprise, nor did it alter his opposition to a government he regards as illegitimate.