Kenya Supreme Court Upholds Kenyatta’s Presidential Vote Win

Kenya’s Supreme Court upheld Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in this month’s presidential election, dismissing a petition from defeated candidate Raila Odinga for the result to be annulled,

The court “reached a unanimous decision on all the four issues for determination,” Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said, reading a ruling on behalf of the six-judge bench in the capital, Nairobi. Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, “were validly elected,” he said.

The decision clears the way for the inauguration of Kenyatta, who is facing a separate legal challenge at the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. Kenyatta, Ruto, and a Kenyan radio presenter are accused by the ICC of orchestrating violence after the last presidential election five years ago. They all maintain they are innocent and will fight the charges.

“I want to assure all Kenyans, including those who did not vote for the Jubilee Coalition, and indeed even those who challenged the validity of my election, that my government will work with, and serve all Kenyans without any discrimination whatsoever,” Kenyatta said in an e-mailed statement.

Kenyatta extended an olive branch to Odinga and other competitors to join him “so that we can work together in the interest of the well-being of our people.”

Police used tear gas to disperse groups of youth burning tires and blocking roads in Kisumu after the verdict was read. Widespread fighting engulfed the western port city after the 2007 election.

“The situation at the moment is under control and police are patrolling,” Elisha Cherono, head of the administrative police in Kisumu, said by phone today.

Fair, Transparent

Kenyatta, 51, won this year’s election with 50.07 percent of votes cast, surpassing by about 8,000 ballots the absolute majority required to avoid a runoff, while Odinga got 43.3 percent. More than 12 million Kenyans voted, a record 86 percent turnout, according to the country’s electoral agency.

The vote “was conducted in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner,” Mutunga said.

Odinga, 68, said the March 4 vote should be nullified and new elections held because of the failure of electronic systems including finger-print identification readers and the mobile phone-based transmission of provisional results. Turnout surpassed the number of registered voters at some polling stations and some return forms were doctored, he said.

“I wish the president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his team, well,” Odinga said after the ruling. “Casting doubt on the judgment of the court could lead to higher political and economic uncertainty, and make it more difficult for our country to move forward.”

Not Fraud

The ruling means discrepancies pointed out by Odinga “don’t amount to enough to allow Odinga’s petition to succeed,” Mwalimu Mati, head of the independent watchdog Mars Group, said in a phone interview from Nairobi after the verdict. “They indicated institutional challenges which can be remedied and not corruption or fraud.”

The court had ordered forms to be scrutinized from all polling stations. The Registrar of the Supreme Court said in a report yesterday that it examined documents from 18,000 out of 33,400 sites and found some discrepancies including some sites with missing forms.

British Prime Minister David Cameron congratulated Kenyatta on his victory and urged Kenyans to accept the decision of the court, according to an e-mailed statement from the U.K. High Commission in Nairobi.

The U.S. government also congratulated Kenyatta and commended Odinga for accepting the verdict, urging all of Kenya’s citizens to do the same.

“Now is the time for Kenyans to come together to fully implement the political, institutional and accountability reforms envisioned in the Kenyan constitution,” a statement from the U.S. Office of the Press Secretary said.

Allegations of vote-rigging by Odinga after he lost his campaign for the presidency in December 2007 led to two months of ethnic clashes that killed more than 1,100 people and cut economic growth to 1.5 percent in 2008 from 7 percent the year before. Kenya is East Africa’s largest economy and the regional hub for companies including Google Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp.

No Appeal

The Supreme Court’s decision on a presidential election petition is final and no appeal is possible, according to the constitution. Kenyatta is set to be sworn in by April 9.

Kenyatta’s trial at The Hague-based court is scheduled to begin in July. He is fighting to have the ICC prosecutor’s office drop the charges, as it did earlier this month for his co-accused Francis Muthaura, the former head of Kenya’s civil service, after a key witness recanted his testimony.