Kenya’s Supreme Court Upholds William Ruto’s Presidential Victory


NAIROBI – Kenya’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld the election of William Ruto as the country’s president-elect in a unanimous decision that strongly rejected arguments made by opposition candidate Raila Odinga and his supporters, who had sought to annul the results of the elections.

The verdict marks a likely final blow to the presidential ambitions of Odinga, a 77-year-old opposition veteran, and means Ruto, 55, the country’s populist vice-president, will be sworn in in the coming weeks. In an opinion read by Chief Justice Martha Koome, the court slammed the allegations made by Odinga’s legal team as “just another red herring” and “hearsay”.

Odinga, who was in his fifth run for president, had personally delivered boxes of evidence to the court after Ruto’s narrow victory in the Aug. 9 election.

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In a statement on Monday afternoon, Odinga said he found it “incredible” that the judges ruled against his motion on each of the nine counts raised, using language he described as “unduly exaggerated “.

“We respect the court’s opinion although we vehemently disagree with its decision today,” says Odinga, who was a political prisoner in the 1980s and helped usher in Kenya’s multi-party system. “This judgment is by no means the end of our movement.”

Ruto, for his part, applauded the judgment, praising the independent electoral commission and its chairman, and describing the judiciary as “the hero of our democracy, the rule of law and constitutionalism”.

“The administration that we are going to lead is the administration that is going to serve all Kenyans,” Ruto said. “It doesn’t matter if they voted or who they voted for.”

The election, which pitted two of Kenya’s most powerful politicians against each other, was hotly contested, with the chairman of the independent electoral body announcing on August 15 that Ruto – who has presented himself as a “scammer” who would represent the better Kenya’s poor – won around 50.5% of the vote, compared to Odinga’s 48.5%.

Minutes before Wafula Chebukati, the committee chair, read the results, four of the seven members said they could not accept the results due to the “opaque nature” of the process.

Odinga’s legal team argued that Chebukati allowed foreign agents to infiltrate the electronic voting system and exceeded his authority by announcing results without the consensus of the commission. Koome said the court found “no credible evidence” for the first claim and determined that the four commissioners provided little evidence for their claims and in fact participated in the process until the “11th hour.”

“Are we going to call off an election based on a last-minute board breakdown, the details of which remain scanty and conflicting?” Koome said. “That we cannot do.”

Koome also criticized Kenya’s electoral body for dysfunction, saying the commission needed “deep reforms”. But she said the infighting had not affected the body’s ability to carry out the election within the standards set by the constitution. She dismissed claims by the Odinga team that there were significant differences between paper tallies at 46,229 polling stations and those uploaded to the online portal.

The election and its aftermath have been closely watched in Kenya and abroad, including in Washington, where Kenya is seen as a beacon of stability in East Africa and a key partner in efforts to combat the terrorism.

International and domestic election monitors generally gave the process high marks, which legal experts said meant that Odinga, who successfully contested his defeat to incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 elections, had a higher bar to prove this time around. He had presented his legal fight as “an all-out battle for the cartels of corruption who have everything to lose against the forces of democracy”.

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Although this election was generally peaceful, some feared that a decision against Odinga would spark unrest among his supporters, as the campaign was widely seen as his last chance for the presidency. The post-election violence that followed the defeat of the 2007 elections by President Mwai Kibaki left more than 1,000 dead and 600,000 displaced. The period following the 2017 elections was also marked by violent street protests and human rights violations.

Prior to the decision, Kenyan police stepped up security in parts of the country with a history of election violence. On Monday in Nairobi, some schools announced they would close early.

After the decision, massive celebrations erupted in Ruto strongholds in central Kenya and across the Rift Valley. On Kikuyu Road in Nairobi, Mary Wangari, 35, said she had stopped frying her potatoes for a minute when she heard the decision.

“Yes, I danced,” she said. “I am now back at work, because I have to find something to eat.”

She and two sisters had fled the Rift Valley town of Eldoret in 2007 amid post-election violence. Wangari said she hoped things would remain calm and could not understand Odinga’s decision to challenge the results.

“This election was different,” she said. “Everything was put out there for everyone to see. Why don’t they accept?

In Kisumu, Odinga’s home town in western Kenya, Charles Olongo said the streets were unusually quiet after the verdict.

“People know they have to get on with their lives,” the 39-year-old taxi driver said.

Chason reported from Dakar.

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