Kenyan Vote to Proceed as Opposition Calls for Mass Resistance

Updated on
  • Court lacks quorum after attack, declaration of holiday
  • Opposition warns Kenyatta responsible ‘if the worst occurs’

Kenya’s presidential-election rerun will go ahead Thursday after the Supreme Court failed to hear a petition seeking a postponement, as the opposition National Super Alliance announced the start of a national resistance movement against what it called a “coup d’etat.”

Chief Justice David Maraga said on Wednesday he couldn’t proceed because some judges were unavailable, including one whose car was attacked by gunmen the night before. The opposition said the judges had been “either intimidated or compromised,” rendering the tribunal unable to adjudicate.

David Maraga, center, speaks at the Supreme Court in Nairobi, Oct. 25.

Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images

“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty and if there’s no justice for the people, let there be no peace for the government,” opposition leader Raila Odinga told a rally in the capital, Nairobi. He urged his supporters to begin a campaign that includes boycotting goods and services of businesses “for whose benefit dictatorship is being established,” to press for fresh elections within 90 days.

Kenya is holding a rerun of its presidential elections after the court annulled a vote held on Aug. 8, citing “irregularities and illegalities” by the electoral body. The opposition has withdrawn from the rerun because it says the commission has failed to remove staff complicit in the botched ballot. The head of the commission has said he can’t guarantee the vote will be credible, citing political interference.

Markets Weaker

Uncertainty about the new vote has unnerved investors. The Nairobi Securities Exchange All Share Index has fallen the most in Africa since the election outcome was declared void on Sept. 1, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The government’s international bonds due in 2024 have also dropped since then, with yields climbing 35 basis points to 6.37 percent.

Wednesday’s petitioners had sought a court order compelling the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission to cancel the vote because the environment isn’t conducive for elections. They also wanted Nasa to be given the opportunity to nominate a presidential candidate afresh after the withdrawal of its leader, Odinga. President Uhuru Kenyatta opposed the petition, the Nairobi-based Daily Nation reported.

The court lacked a quorum because only two judges were present for the hearing, Maraga said. Among those absent was Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, whose vehicle was attacked by assailants on Tuesday and her driver was injured, though she wasn’t in the car at the time. One judge isn’t in Nairobi and one is ill, Maraga said.

‘Abrogation of Responsibility’

“Given the seriousness of the implications the ruling could have had, the absence of the judges appears to be an abrogation of their responsibility to debate such important matters of law and clarify whether the electoral process as it is now unfolding is legitimate,” Jared Jeffery, an analyst at Paarl, South Africa-based NKC African Economics, said in an emailed note. “The decision to not make a ruling is in effect a decision to allow the election to go ahead while not appearing to explicitly endorse it.”

Election controversies have become routine in Kenya, a regional hub for companies including General Electric Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., since it became a multiparty democracy in 1991. The most catastrophic followed a disputed vote in December 2007 that deteriorated into clashes across the country and claimed at least 1,100 lives.

As many as 67 people have died in protests since the last vote results were announced, according to rights groups such as Amnesty International, and the opposition has vowed to stage protests until its demands for electoral reform are met.

“From tomorrow the duty of every citizen who loves freedom is to resist dictatorship and fight to restore a government established in compliance with the constitution,” Odinga said. “A government elected in a free, fair and credible election.”

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