Kenya's Supreme Court upholds Kenyatta's presidential win




  • In World/Africa
  • 2017-11-20 11:29:02Z
  • By By Maggie Fick and Duncan Miriri
Kenya
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers a speech during a ceremony at the All Saints Anglican Church in Nairobi  

By Maggie Fick and Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's Supreme Court on Monday unanimously upheld the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta in last month's repeat presidential vote, paving the way for him to be sworn in next week.

Chief Justice David Maraga said all six judges dismissed the two legal challenges to the vote. The opposition coalition NASA insisted the government was illegitimate.

Kenyatta's main challenger, NASA's Raila Odinga, said in a statement by his adviser Salim Lone that the ruling "did not come as a surprise" and said "it was a decision taken under duress".

"We in NASA had repeatedly declared before this Supreme Court ruling today that we consider this government to be illegitimate and do not recognise it. This position has not been changed by the court ruling," the statement said.

It referred to security concerns raised by the opposition about the judges after one of their bodyguards was shot the day before the court was to deliberate on an 11th-hour request to delay last month's election.

The chief justice said at the time police had "enhanced" security after the shooting. The court could not immediately be reached on Monday to comment on NASA's allegation.

Monday's ruling clears the way for Kenyatta's swearing-in on Nov. 28, but it is unlikely to end the worst political crisis in East Africa's most developed economy in a decade.

Residents in the western city of Kisumu, where Odinga has strong backing, barricaded roads in protest at the court's decision, and police later fired in the air to disperse them, according to a Reuters witness.

Odinga had called for a "National Resistance Movement" after Kenyatta's victory last month. Kenyatta had said he would not engage in dialogue with the opposition until "constitutional options" had been exhausted.

The prolonged election process has disrupted the economy and forced the government to cut its growth forecast. Rights groups say at least 66 people have died in bloodshed surrounding the votes in August and October.

The petitioners had argued that the outcome should be voided because the election board did not seek fresh nominations after the Aug. 8 poll was invalidated, and because the vote was not held in each of the 291 constituencies.

KENYAN FLAGS

The repeat election on Oct. 26 had been ordered by the Supreme Court after it nullified the results of the August election, citing irregularities in the tallying of votes - an unprecedented move on the continent.

The opposition boycotted the poll, which Kenyatta won with 98 percent of the vote. Some opposition supporters mobilised to prevent polls from opening in the west of the country.

"The court has unanimously determined that the petitions are not merited," Maraga said. "As a consequence, the presidential election of 26th of October is hereby upheld."

The court did not detail its reasons. It said it would issue a full judgment within 21 days.

The decision was met with applause in the courtroom from lawyers for the election commission and Kenyatta. The commission said the ruling affirmed its "resolve and deliberate efforts to conduct free, fair and credible elections".

There was no immediate reaction from Kenyatta.

Kenya, a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamists and a trade gateway to East Africa, has a history of disputed elections. 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.

Police said on Sunday at least four people were killed overnight in a Nairobi opposition stronghold. [L8N1NP07P]

Odinga accused the government of being behind the killings, which followed at least five deaths on Friday as police tried to disperse opposition supporters. Deputy President William Ruto said action would be taken against those inciting violence.

Odinga put the death toll in violence since he returned to Nairobi on Friday from an overseas trip far higher, at 31. The police tally over the same period was nine.

In several areas of the capital, riots broke out on Sunday in response to the deaths, as residents set cars and buses on fire and police responded with teargas. On Monday, in the slum of Mathare, scene of violence over the weekend, police deployed in large numbers after the ruling but there were no skirmishes.

Outside the court in Nairobi, Kenyatta supporters waved Kenyan flags and danced outside, and celebrations broke out in the central city of Nyeri, a ruling party stronghold.

In downtown Nairobi, Elvis Kinyanjui, a vendor selling socks and watches, said he hoped "next year business will be back to normal". "Everyone is holding on to their shilling not knowing what tomorrow will be like," he said.

Shares headed higher and the currency strengthened against the dollar after the ruling, traders said. [L8N1NQ1OW] The markets dropped sharply when the court nullified August's vote.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick and Duncan Miriri; Additional reporting by John Ndiso in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Alison Williams)

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