Kenyan Supreme Court Sheweth Class

Kenyan Supreme Court

‘’ Those who are heroes, those who live forever, are those who lay down their lives so that as a result of their suffering, sacrifices and their self-giving, those who come after them may have freedom, and the opportunity to live their lives as they think best’’

Prof. K.A. Busia

MAU MAU WAS DECLARED as a dreaded group in Kenya engaged in the Kenya Emergency, an uprising by the Kikuyu-dominated group who rather preferred to be called Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA).

It was an anagram of ‘Uma Uma’, meaning ‘get out, get out’. As far back as 1895, the period of the ‘Scramble for Africa’ by the Europeans, the British had proclaimed Kenya as a protectorate, and the British East Africa Commission had noted in 1925 that Kenya’s land constituted “some of the richest agricultural soils in the world mostly in districts where the elevation and climate make it possible for Europeans to reside permanently’’. So, they were there to stay permanently! The Europeans had carved for themselves a disproportionate share of the land. The natives were forbidden to grow cash crops, but the Europeans reserved for themselves the right to grow tea coffee and other cash crops. With a population of about 30,000, the Europeans controlled the poor natives, numbering about 5 million. The blacks, with their land usurped were reduced to work on the European farms as labourers and servants.

The capture of the rebel leader, Dedan Kimathi on 21st October, 1956 appeared to have marked the end of the ‘Mau Mau’ insurgency. Jomo Kenyatta, who in 1929 had travelled to London to lobby for Kikuyu tribal land, got educated in Moscow’s Communist University, University College of London and the London School of Economics. He took part in the 1945 Pan African Congress, being a friend of George Padmore. He returned to Kenya in 1946 and became a school Principal. In 1947, he was elected President of the Kenya Africa Union, a rallying point for Kenyan independence. In 1952, he was one of the ‘Kapenguria Six’ arrested and charged in connection with the ‘Mau Mau’ uprising. He insisted on his innocence, but was sentenced to 9 years, spending 7 years in Lokitaung Prison up to 1959 when he was exiled to Lodwar till 1961.

On Kenyatta’s release, he led the newly formed Kenya African Nationalist Union ( KANU ) and became president of Kenya in 1963 when Kenya became a Republic. He earned the title ‘ mzee’, father of the Nation till he died in office in 1978.

Uhuru (Freedom) Kenyatta was the son of Jomo Kenyatta by his fourth wife, Mama Ngina born on 26th October 1961. He served as MP for Gatundu South from 2002 to 2013, and later became Kenya’s fourth President, succeeding Mwai Kibaki. Uhuru Kenyatta had in 2001 been chosen by Daniel arap Moi as Minister for Local Government, and despite what is termed his ‘political inexperience’, he was being groomed by Daniel arap Moi to succeed him as Kenya’s President.

Raila Odinga, 72, was the son of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, born 7th January, 1945, and drew a large following from his Luo Constituency. He had stood election four times for the Kenyan Presidency, but lost – until he decided to challenge this last one of August, 2017.

The UN Observers, the Carter Foundation led by John Kerry, the AU Observer Group all gave the election a clean bill of health as being ‘fair and representative’, and that incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta had won by a margin of 54%. When Raila Odinga decided to go to court for irregularities and unconstitutionality, there must have been a wry smile from Kenyatta’s party members because the Chief Justice had just been appointed by Kenyatta, the president. The Supreme Court ruled: “The  declaration ( of Kenyatta‘s win ) is invalid, null and void… the election board failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the Constitution’’. Chief Justice David Maraga stated that the detailed judgment was to be published in 21 days but the court ordered a re-run of the election in 60 days.

Uhuru Kenyatta indicated that he ‘personally disagrees’ with the judgment and condemned the judges: ‘’… six people have decided they will go against the will of the people…’’,  but advised the citizenry to remain calm in the wake of the verdict, to avoid a repetition of the violence of the 2007 election that left up to 1,500 people killed and almost 600,000 displaced – the most dastardly of which was the locking up of a church and burning the members alive in Kiambaa Village, near Eldoret on New Year’s Day. Later , the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, brokered a peace settlement, the  “National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008” which created a coalition government, and a power – sharing cabinet with Raila Odinga as Prime Minister. This action by Kofi Annan was backed by President J.A Kufour who was then, the AU Chairman.

The remark by Uhuru Kenyatta was countered by Raila Odinga who intimated: “This indeed is a very historic day for the people of Kenya… For the first time in the history of African democratization, a ruling has been made by a court nullifying irregular elections for the president…” Of course, one could cite sporadic violence, leading to the killing of 11 people. Remember this was an election for which Ghana’s Peter Mac Manu was refused entry into Kenya because he was an honorary chairman of the ‘Democratic Union of Africa’ of which some of the opposition parties in Kenya were members. Raila Odinga’s party Democratic Orange Movement had formed a coalition with other opposition parties, the National Super Alliance (NASA) with the aim of dethroning Uhuru Kenyatta. But ex-President John Mahama was there leading a 15-man team to oversee the election and later pronouncing it free, fair and representative. John Kerry of the Carter Center Election Observer Mission threw caution to the wind, declaring; “the ability of the ballots to be secured and to be able to be counted appears to be very strong…” He believed there was nothing wrong with the balloting.

Now, the Supreme Court had spoken. But Uhuru Kenyatta thought: ‘’… earlier I was president – elect, Maraga and his crooks have decided to nullify the election… I am still the incumbent… Maraga should know that he is dealing with the President who is incumbent…’ The Kenya Magistrates and Judges’ Association (KMJA) could not be intimidated by this ‘political rhetoric.’

Remember we in Ghana were faced with a similar situation in 2012? Remember the judgment? Why do we in Ghana pride ourselves as being the first in this, the first in that? The Supreme Court in Kenya had shown that when it comes to taking a firm decision on elections, they are the first in Africa to show that they have balls, sorry, they have nerves.


Africanus Owusu-Ansah