What you need to know:
- The court made a political decision” in its ruling that a runoff was not required, Prof Barkan said. Calling its unanimous opinion “very shallow,” Prof Barkan said “the court itself was the big loser” and had “essentially undermined its own authority, going forward.”
- There is “no way we can change the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta is president of Kenya,” Mr Kiai said.
NEW YORK - The election decision rendered by the Supreme Court is damaging to its credibility, a Kenyan activist and a US scholar declared at a forum held in Washington on Tuesday.
Maina Kiai, head of a civil society organisation in Nairobi, and Joel Barkan, a US think tank expert on African governance issues, both suggested that the court should have ordered a runoff between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
The two commentators agreed that while Mr Kenyatta clearly won a larger share of the vote than Mr Odinga did on March 4, there was reason to suspect that Mr Kenyatta’s actual tally did not exceed 50 percent.
The court made a political decision” in its ruling that a runoff was not required, Prof Barkan said. Calling its unanimous opinion “very shallow,” Mr Barkan said “the court itself was the big loser” and had “essentially undermined its own authority, going forward.”
Mr Kiai used similar language in criticising the court’s performance, characterising its election ruling as “one of the most shallow judgments I have ever seen.”
“As civil society,” Mr Kiai added in his remarks at the National Endowment for Democracy, “we’re not challenging the results — we’re challenging the process. It’s important to set the bar higher for future elections.”
There is “no way we can change the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta is president of Kenya,” Mr Kiai said.
But he pointed to what he said were many small-scale manipulations of voting results that, taken together, enabled Mr Kenyatta’s reported tally to exceed the 50 percent threshold.
Prof Barkan did not offer as firm a conclusion in his assessment of the election results.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know whether they won 50 percent plus one,” he said in regard to Mr Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. “My own sense is they did not, but they did win a plurality.
I don’t think the vote was stolen, but the election was a highly incompetent one.”
Mr Kiai added that the focus should now be on how Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto respond in the coming months to the cases brought against them in The Hague.
“The ICC is the only game in town in terms of accountability,” Mr Kiai said.
Prof Barkan offered a different view, saying, “The ICC did itself a disservice” in its handling of the Kenyatta/Ruto cases. He cited lengthy delays in the court’s process, suggesting that former Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo did not serve the court well.
In considering where advocates of democracy in Kenya should place their attention, Prof Barkan said, “I wouldn’t focus so much on the ICC case. I would focus on whether Uhuru will stick to the very admirable markers he laid out in his inauguration speech.”