On 1st September 2017, Kenya’s Supreme Court made history by annulling the August 8th presidential election. In a 4-2 decision, they determined that the recently concluded presidential election was not conducted in accordance with the Constitution and was invalid, null and void. The election was not transparent, and could not be said to be free, fair and credible. There were also errors in the tallying system that compromised its integrity. As such, the Supreme Court ordered a fresh presidential election within 60 days of the ruling (the date set by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was originally October 17th, but has now changed to October 26th 2017). This was a win for justice, credibility and democracy; it was also an assertion of judicial independence and a moment of pride for many Kenyans.
Initially, Uhuru Kenyatta seemed to accept the ruling, albeit bitterly, but that has since changed. He held a rally at Burma Market in Nairobi where he called the Chief Justice and other Supreme Court Judges wakora (crooks), and said that they should know that they are dealing with a sitting president. Funny, former Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza was witch-hunted for a scuffle with a security guard in which she told the guard that she “should know people” but the president of Kenya did the same to the head of the judiciary and was met with cheers. I await the witch hunt.
He also said “Let those five, six people know, since the Kenyan people will still decide, they should wait for us to act after the people have made their decision. We are keeping a close eye on them. But let us deal with the election first. We are not afraid.” He has accused the Supreme Court of carrying out a judicial coup and subverting the will of the Kenyan people, and has threatened to cut them down to size and teach them a lesson when (not if, note the confidence) he gets reelected. He has said that there is a “problem” and we “must fix it.”
The Chief Justice, on behalf of the Judiciary, has since responded to these attacks in a statement, saying that they would not allow anybody to dictate to them how to discharge their mandate as given by the people of Kenya under the constitution. He mentioned that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the body charged by the Constitution under Article 172 with the responsibility of promoting the independence and accountability of the Judiciary, took great exception to these attacks, which are a vile affront to the rule of law and must be fiercely resisted.
He further stated that the JSC and the Judiciary would not cower to these intimidating attacks, that they would remain steadfast in defending the judges and the institution from unwarranted attacks, and that they would always be at the forefront of defending the cardinal principle of decisional independence of judges, and would at no time direct any judicial officer on how to decide on the cases before them. He reassured Kenyans that the Judiciary was prepared to handle all election-related disputes, at all levels, swiftly and fairly and without fear or favour, and that they were willing to pay the ultimate price to protect the constitution (since the police had failed to protect them).
In all this, it has become apparent that Uhuru Kenyatta either does not have a firm grasp of the constitution, or that he does and simply doesn’t care what it says. When he accused the Supreme Court of subverting the will of the people and not having the authority to act as they did because they are not elected, I wondered if he was aware that the constitution from which he draws his authority was the same one that creates the Supreme Court. That this constitution reflects the will of the Kenyan people, and that when the courts make a decision, they act on our behalf, with the authority we have vested in them, just as when Parliament makes a decision, they make it on our behalf (this is arguable, though). The constitution that makes declares the president a symbol of national unity (it should read “symbol of national division” in Mr. Kenyatta’s case) empowers the Judiciary to render justice without fear.
The threats by Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party cohorts must also be treated very seriously in this country where lives are disposable, and in which people are disappeared for speaking and acting against the establishment. Coupled with the fact that the Chief Justice has stated that the police are not providing adequate protection to judges (he said that the Inspector General, Joseph Boinnet, had repeatedly ignored calls to act on the threats to the Judiciary), one can only imagine what the establishment has in store for them.
In this cut-throat world of wheeler-dealers, wealth and power are concentrated in a few, who re-write society’s rules to their own advantage. Issues such as environmental protection and social justice have become peripheral. Democratic institutions are being weakened and the media and intellectuals are being vilified. Fascism – the feverish exaltation of ethnicity, race, nation or religion above the rights of the individual – has become the new normal.
As a fascist, he finds great company in his contemporaries, chief of all Donald Trump. Both of them are champions of nationalism (ethno-nationalism in Uhuru’s case, in which the Kikuyu are chosen to lead. This is the foundation of uthamaki ideology). Both have a disdain for human rights, and rather than speak for their causes, they rally their supporters behind a perceived enemy (Raila Odinga and the Judiciary in Uhuru’s case). Both are sexists (Uhuru’s sexism and misogyny shines bright in his inability to move the majority he controls both in the Senate and National Assembly to pass the Two-Thirds Gender Bill). Both fight the media (Uhuru Kenyatta has famously said that newspapers are only good for wrapping meat) and are obsessed with militarization and “national security.” Both are known to call to God and religion when it suits them (while acting in decidedly “ungodly” ways the rest of the time).
Both Uhuru Kenyatta and Donald Trump fight for the rights and power of corporations while suppressing the rights and power of the workers. Both have a disdain for intellectuals and the arts (Uhuru Kenyatta’s government is currently overseeing a travel ban for academics), and are obsessed with talk about crime and “punishment” (as you can see from Uhuru’s threats to the Judiciary). Most of all, both are guilty of rampant cronyism and corruption (Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has been said to be the most corrupt in Kenya’s history. He even had the gall to ask us what we want him to do about it).
It is up to Kenyans to take up the example set by the Judiciary and resist our fascist president and his cronies. We have got to be active citizens and stand up for freedom.