What you need to know:
- When Chief Justice David Maraga started reading his preamble and announced it was a majority decision, a lot of jaws dropped. “Guys, we’re going back to another election!” somebody gasped.
- The Moi Girls Nairobi inferno last week is just the latest in a string of incidents that have claimed the lives of hundreds of students. That at least eight girls died unnecessarily in this tragedy is an indictment of the school’s administration that should never be forgotten.
- “…I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge the duties of a member of parliament so help me God.” They slowed down when they got to it and you could almost hear the panic in their voices as they considered how to pronounce it correctly.
A hush went around the NTV gallery as the Supreme Court judges walked in to deliver their judgement in the presidential petition. The control room during a major news event like that is usually a buzz of activity, with producers, editors and the crew managing multiple live feeds and making split-second decisions about what to put on air.
When Chief Justice David Maraga started reading his preamble and announced it was a majority decision, a lot of jaws dropped. “Guys, we’re going back to another election!” somebody gasped.
As justices JB Ojwang’ and Njoki Ndung’u read summaries of their dissenting opinions, we drafted the text for the breaking news flash we would use to break the news once it was confirmed.
When he dropped the bombshell on the annulment of the presidential poll, we were ready: “Supreme Court invalidates Uhuru election”, the screen screamed.
“Are we doing another presidential debate?” someone else wondered aloud.
Just like many around the country and the world at large, the newsroom was stunned. This was the petition that had been roundly criticised by lawyers for both the IEBC and President Uhuru Kenyatta, and was generally expected to fail at the Supreme Court.
Live on air, celebrations broke out in Kisumu, Mombasa, parts of Nairobi and outside the Supreme Court. Raila Odinga had the biggest smile I have ever seen on his face as some in his legal team sang and danced while Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo shed a tear lying prostrate outside the court.
The wall-to-wall coverage continued, with two statements from the victorious NASA team, a deflated Wafula Chebukati and President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Our live shots from Gatundu and Eldoret were quiet as Jubilee strongholds came to terms with the shock decision of the highest court in the land.
Online, NASA supporters gloated while Jubilee followers promised to re-elect their candidate with an even bigger margin. “I’m Re-Voting for Uhuru and Ruto” posters started appearing on timelines in a show of defiance.
Euphoria met rage in a rare re-enactment of the reaction to the announcement of the presidential election just a fortnight ago, but for just for the opposite sides this time. We’re in for two more months of trash talking, propaganda and fake news.
This will probably be the most antagonistic campaign ever if the last few days are anything to go by. President Kenyatta feels aggrieved by the decision of “six people” and has promised to revisit the Supreme Court ruling after the new election in what appears to be a direct threat to the institution’s independence if he is re-elected. He and his base blame Raila Odinga, whom they see as a perennial sore loser who has cut short their honeymoon even though they have a parliamentary majority and more elected leaders than NASA countrywide.
The new election is Raila’s to lose. He must be better organised, he must get the highest turnout, he must outspend and outthink Uhuru or he might never be president.
They both claim they are ready but the next 50 or so days will really tell who was underprepared, who took things for granted and who really wants to rule. President Kenyatta has a huge head start, not just because of incumbency and the human and material resources at his disposal, but also the fact that he has already deployed his campaign team.
Many observers believe Uhuru ran a better campaign than Raila though he got slammed for using taxpayer funds to sell his agenda hiding under the “GOK Delivers” branding. The IEBC will probably be more vigilant to avoid any legal loopholes that might invalidate another election, so everyone will have to play by the rules a bit more, which levels the playing field to a certain degree.
With NASA at a disadvantage and using fewer elected representatives to mobilise than their opponents, they have to work twice as hard, get agents
everywhere, to even scratch the surface. Raila has to reach out to Kisii and Nyamira one more time, consolidate whatever he can get in Bomet and Meru as well as put on the charm for the vote-rich Western region.
Even though they were thrown out, they should assume that Uhuru, in fact, had a 1.4 million vote lead over them and try to figure out how to recover that and beat it.
It will take a miracle for the Opposition coalition to win this presidential election, but not everyone gets a do-over of a race after it is complete.
They have the luxury of 20/20 hindsight to review what might have gone awry and try to correct course. Who exactly is the underdog in this case is now hard to tell. We’re going to be burning the midnight oil to follow every moment of this crazy campaign season until the fat lady sings. May the better man win!
Moi Girls should be the last tragedy
Many Kenyans schools lock up their students in temporary prisons disguised as sleeping quarters. Why dormitory regulations for students in boarding schools haven’t changed after several fire tragedies is a modern-day Kenyan mystery.
The Moi Girls Nairobi inferno last week is just the latest in a string of incidents that have claimed the lives of hundreds of students. Some students have told their parents that the dorms were locked from outside, a dangerous and outdated practice from a previous generation. The lights either went out or were switched off, further complicating a difficult situation.
That at least eight girls died unnecessarily in this tragedy is an indictment of the school’s administration that should never be forgotten.
Some alumni who say they tried to fundraise to expand the dorms and reduce congestion were reportedly rebuffed. The principal allegedly preferred to direct that money to build a chapel, not to improve the living conditions of the girls. Families and friends are distraught and life will not be the same again for the survivors even when they resume classes.
Parents have only started the heartbreaking process of identifying their daughters burnt beyond recognition using DNA testing. No mother or father should have to go through this. When will this stop?
Do MPs even know what conscientiously means?
Some new senators and members of the national assembly chose to take their oath of office in Swahili for a simple reason: a word. After watching their colleagues struggle to pronounce “conscientiously” on live television, the lawmakers probably saw it fit to just avoid it altogether and use the other national language.
The offending sentence went something like “…I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge the duties of a member of parliament so help me God.” They slowed down when they got to it and you could almost hear the panic in their voices as they considered how to pronounce it correctly.
The dictionary definition of the complicated word is deceptively simple: in a thorough and responsible way. Or, in a way that is motivated by one’s moral sense of right and wrong. I know it is hard to look up big words in this era when the only book people read is Facebook, so I just wanted to put it out here, in a newspaper column nobody will read.
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