Future of democracy hangs in the balance as Kenya prepares for election rerun

In a historic ruling on 1st September 2017, Kenya's Supreme Court declared Uhuru Kenyatta's presidential re-election results of 8th August 2017 as invalid. The six-judge Supreme Court, acting on a petition from opposition leader Raila Odinga, ruled the election results “invalid, null and void" due to substantial irregularities and illegalities which affected the integrity of the poll. The Court also ordered a repeat of the election within 60 days, with 26th October later confirmed as the new voting date. The ruling was also a rebuke to international observers and diplomats who were quick to dismiss accusations of irregularities, largely because of their focus on peace and desire to maintain stability in one of the region’s most important economies.

The second round of the presidential election on 26th October will have only the two main candidates running - Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga - a decision which drew criticism from other presidential candidates, such as Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuro Aukot. 

President Kenyatta, who initially welcomed the court's decision, has since called the judges “crooks” and vowed to "fix" the court after the rerun of the election. During a public meeting with leaders from the Kamba tribe on 11th September, Kenyatta said that even if Odinga wins the October election, the ruling Jubilee Party will move to impeach him, as they have a majority of members in both houses of parliament, which allows them to make amendments to the constitution.

Expression

At least ten journalists were assaulted and harassed while covering the aftermath of the disputed election on 8th August. On 12th August, police officers arrested journalist Duncan Khaemba and his colleague Otieno Willis of the Kenya Television Network while they were reporting live from Kibera slum. They were arrested for allegedly possessing bullet proof gear - a helmet and body armour  - without a proper license. Kenya's 1954 Firearms Act classifies bulletproof vests as firearms and stipulates that a license is required to acquire or possess them.

Other incidents took place during the post-election period, as noted by the Committee to Protect Journalists, including the following: 

  • Matina Stevis, Africa correspondent with The Wall Street Journal claims she was hit over the head with a wooden stick by security forces on 12th August. 
  • Neil Shea, a freelance journalist shooting a documentary in Kibera, claims he was attacked on 12th August by four or five security officers who beat him, destroyed his camera and took his memory cards. 
  • Simon Achola, a reporter with government-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation said that security personnel took his phone and deleted his photographs of the protests. 
  • Several other journalists such as freelance reporter Caleb Kingwara and Evans Habil, said they were attacked by civilians while covering the events after the election.

In the western city of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold, police officers blocked journalists and observers from covering the protests on 10th August.

On 2nd September, police officers arrested photographer Michael Khateli during a photo session with his wife in Uhuru Park in Nairobi. The police asserted that taking photos without authorisation from the Nairobi City Council is illegal.

Peaceful Assembly

At least 24 people were killed during opposition protests that erupted on 11th August, after the announcement of the election results, including a 9-year-old girl and a six-month old baby, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. The police are accused of using excessive force and live ammunition.