A ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court yesterday – which annulled the results of last month’s presidential election due to irregularities – has undoubtedly cast doubt on the credibility of key observers of the Kenyan polls, including former Presidents John Dramani Mahama of Ghana and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.
The observers had praised the conduct of the Kenyan election, held on August 8, this year, describing it as free and fair, despite protests by opposition leader Raila Odinga and his followers that the results, which went in favour of incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta, were manipulated.
The Electoral Commission had declared incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta the winner by a margin of 1.4 million votes.
However, the European Union Election Observer Mission, headed by Marietje Schaake, had in its first assessment of the poll, refuted claims by the opposition leader that the exercise was rigged.
The mission was reported to have said that it had seen no signs of “centralised or localised manipulation” of the voting process.
The various observer groups, including the African Union (AU) and Commonwealth – headed by Mr. Mbeki and Mr. Mahama – as well as the Carter Center Observer Mission, headed by former US Secretary of State, had all called on Kenyans to accept the outcome of the poll which they deemed free and fair.
?Mr. Mbeki had reportedly stated in the heat of the protests that “it would be very regrettable if anything emerges afterwards that sought to corrupt the outcome, to spoil that outcome.”
John Kerry had also reportedly stated “the process that was put in place is proving its value thus far. Kenya has made a remarkable statement to Africa and the world about its democracy and the character of that democracy. Don’t let anybody besmirch that.”
Mr. Mahama, who is believed to be a friend of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, had appealed to all citizens of that country to accept the results, saying losing an election is not easy.
“We have followed the whole process and wish to congratulate all on the process thus far. It is my fervent hope and expectation that the positive, peaceful and orderly atmosphere that we all experienced on 8 August, 2017 will continue to prevail as we await the conclusion of this electoral process.
“Our overall conclusion is that the opening, voting, closing and counting process at the polling stations on 8 August, 2017 were credible, transparent and inclusive. We commend and congratulate Kenyan voters, the staff of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, political party agents, candidates’ agents, the media and all security personnel for their commitment to the democratic process,” John Mahama, Chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Mission, had said before the final declaration of the results for his friend.
Dissatisfied with the results, the opposition, led by Mr Raila Odinga, petitioned Kenya’s Supreme Court to declare the results null and void.
Kenya’s Chief Justice, David Maraga, in a ruling yesterday, September 1, said the 8 August election had not been “conducted in accordance with the constitution” and declared it “invalid, null and void.”
Justice Maraga has reportedly indicated that Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had failed “to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution,” – sharply contradicting the ‘free and fair’ claims by the observers.
The Supreme Court said a new poll should be held within 60 days.
Observer Missions Questioned
Meanwhile, political science lecturer at the University of Ghana and failed National Democratic Congress (NDC) parliamentary candidate for Shai Osudoku, Dr Michael Kpessah Whyte, has said that the annulment of Kenya’s presidential results casts doubts on the credibility of international observers.
Speaking on Class 91.3FM’s ‘World Affairs’ programme Friday, minutes after the ruling, Dr Kpessah Whyte said, “We heard the international community, I mean the US former Secretary of State John Kerry, we heard Thabo Mbeki, our former President John Mahama and others were all in there and they all visited several electoral centres and pronounced this election one of the most credible in the history of that country.”
In light of the contrary view posited by the Supreme Court, Dr Kpessah Whyte said: “We need to see the details of the ruling but this ruling raises a lot of questions about the credibility of international observers and whether they really are looking at substance or they are looking at form and whether they would be relevant going into the future at all.”
By Melvin Tarlue