Kenya’s press on Saturday praised the Supreme Court decision to annul last month’s presidential poll as a hard-fought victory for the rule of law, and sign of a maturing democracy.
Pointing to widespread irregularities in the electronic transmission of vote results, Chief Justice David Maraga declared President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory “invalid, null and void”.
The unexpected ruling in favour of opposition leader Raila Odinga stunned the nation.
The Saturday Standard headlined its front page “Maraga Thunder”, while the Star went with “Not yet, Uhuru” and the Saturday Nation had “Raila’s big victory”.
All agreed that what the Nation termed a “Supreme Bombshell” was a welcome sign of the judiciary’s independence.
“Kenyans have struggled for decades to institutionalise the rule of law.
“We have fought, shed blood, lost lives and property in search of constitutional order,” the paper said in an editorial.
“Intrinsic in this is the desire to establish independent institutions that provide checks and balances against each other.”
It said the ruling “signalled the end of the era of impunity that has painfully assailed this country for too long”.
Writing in the Star, the president of the Law Society of Kenya wrote that every election except that in 2002 had been plagued by “complaints, irregularities, suspicion of impropriety” that no court had been willing to properly tackle.
The paper’s editorial said the decision “will reverberate for years to come in Kenya and around the continent”.
It is the first time a presidential election result was overturned in Africa.
Similar court rulings have been seen in Austria, Haiti, Ukraine, Serbia and the Maldives.
The press also raised prickly questions about the weeks to come.
The new election must be held by October 31, and the opposition has declared it has lost all confidence in the electoral commission (IEBC).
“How it will conduct the next elections in the next 60 days is unimaginable,” the Nation said.
“Already the Nasa leadership has declared war on the commission and with or without that, its credibility has been severely dented and the public has lost confidence in it.”
The Standard said the IEBC must “clean up house”.
“What Kenya needs most now is an election conducted in a legal, fair and transparent manner.”
As the country awaits the full ruling of the court, other questions remain such as what the decision means for the electronic vote transmission system, and whether the IEBC budgeted for another election.
“This is not the end. The toughest journey, campaigns and elections, is yet to begin,” the Nation wrote.
With a touch of humour, the Standard published a cartoon showing CJ Maraga standing on top of a globe, while a voice from the other side of the planet says: “Kenia? I thought they were only known for athletics?!” in a likely jab at the colonial pronunciation of the country’s name.
He pointed out that Jubilee Party had more governors, senators, MPs and MCAs.