The Supreme Court on Wednesday stamped its exclusive authority on the presidential election results petition, warning politicians and the public against discussing the case outside its chambers.
The warning, in a statement signed by the court’s seven judges, followed a stream of statements and comments from politicians and the general public through various online platforms on the petition in which Opposition leader Raila Odinga has asked the court to quash the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and order a fresh poll, saying he was not validly elected.
The court, headed by Chief Justice David Maraga, called for a stop to the discussions, which it described as sub-judice.
“The petitioners, respondents and any other party to the petition, including their agents, advisers or supporters, in adherence to the sub-judice rule, are directed to refrain from prosecuting the merits of their case in any forum other than this court,” the statement signed by all the seven judges said.
They warned: “The public should avoid making statements that are intended or which could be perceived as intended to direct the court on the conduct of the petition.”
Mr Odinga, in a joint petition with his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, has named the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), its chairman Wafula Chebukati, and President Kenyatta as respondents in the high-stakes case.
On Tuesday, Mr Odinga suggested that the seven judges could not be relied upon to represent the will of the 15 million voters who cast their ballots on August 8.
“The Supreme Court is made up of seven judges. The discretion of seven individuals, however wise, can neither represent nor substitute the voice of 15 million people,” Mr Odinga said in Mombasa during the swearing-in of Governor Ali Hassan Joho.
He went on: “Seven individuals can be intimidated, they can be compromised and they can make genuine mistakes.”
His comments came after Jubilee-allied MPs dismissed the petition, exuding confidence that President Kenyatta will carry the day.
“I have read Nasa’s petition and their prayers. There is nothing to worry about. The truth will set us free. Once again the win of President Uhuru and DP Ruto will be confirmed by the Supreme Court,” said Elgeyo Marakwet Senator-elect Kipchumba Murkomen on Twitter a day after the case was filed.
President Kenyatta has generally avoided talking about the merits of the case, but has exuded confidence that he will win.
“When we finish, and I know God will give us a win, we will invite you so that we can sit down at home,” he said of the Supreme Court case at the St Stephen’s Cathedral Church on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the judges said: “Statements that profile individual judges in a manner likely to prejudice public opinion on the conduct of the petition should be avoided.”
They also warned the media against breaching its code of conduct under the law, while asking it to maintain its role of keeping the public informed.
Meanwhile, Muslim leaders have called on politicians to stop interfering with the role of the Supreme Court as it handles the petition.
The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims through its organising secretary Hussein Shariff Omar, said leaders must focus on maintaining peace and unity in the country instead.
“We prevail upon all the political leaders from different factions to maintain peace and unity and allow the Supreme Court of Kenya to undertake their obligation and mandate as provided for by the Kenya Constitution,” he said at Supkem’s office in Nairobi.
– Additional reporting by Valentine Obara