NAIROBI – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly rebuked the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday, saying its decision to annul the result of last month’s election amounted to a “coup.”
“What happened in our country is nothing short of what Kenya has so successfully avoided over the past 53 years of our independence, and what has happened in many other African countries where we have seen coups by the army coming to overthrow the government,” Kenyatta said in a televised address.
The court upheld a petition by veteran opposition candidate Raila Odinga, who said the re-election of President Kenyatta on August 8 was fraudulent. It ordered a re-run of the election, which is scheduled for October.
In presenting its reasons for annulling last month’s election, the court on Wednesday condemned the voting authority for failing to give the court full access to its computer servers.
Justice Philomena Mwilu said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) refusal to provide access left the court “no choice but to accept the petitioner’s claims that the IEBC’s IT system was infiltrated and compromised, and the data therein interfered with, or IEBC’s officials themselves interfered with the data.”
The court criticized the independent voting body for failing to provide information on the IT system’s firewall configuration, among other court requests.
Opposition supporters demonstrated nearby as the court read its statement, according to Reuters. Hours before, police had secured and closed some roads around the courthouse.
The IEBC had declared that incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won the election, getting 54% of the votes to Odinga’s 45%.
But Kenya’s Supreme Court threw out the results of the contentious vote earlier this month after Odinga claimed the result had been electronically tampered with.
The ruling marked the first time a court in Africa has nullified the re-election of a sitting leader.
Judges face death threats
The country has been on tenterhooks in recent weeks, with many voters eager to learn if any evidence of hacking had been found.
A day before the court delivered its statement, Chief Justice David Maraga said judges on the bench had faced death threats since declaring the election results void, and criticized the police for “ignoring calls to act.”
“These attacks are denigrating, demeaning and degrading and are meant to intimidate, threaten and cow the institution and individual judges,” Maraga told a news conference on Tuesday. “Such acts are not only unlawful but savage in nature.”
He said members of the court were “prepared to pay the ultimate price to protect the constitution and the rule of law.”
His comments came hours after protests erupted outside the Supreme Court building in Nairobi where supporters of the ruling Jubilee party had gathered to dispute the ruling.
Crowds could be seen waving bright red posters reading “The Supreme Court stole our victory” and “No elections = Uhuru for President till 2022.”
Upon annulling the presidential vote, the Supreme Court ruled that a new election must be held within 60 days. Days later, the IEBC announced the fresh ballot will be held on October 17.
While Kenyatta has said he would respect the court’s ruling, he has also criticized the judiciary and said it must be fixed. Odinga’s opposition party has vowed not to participate in the October 17 vote without major reforms by the electoral commission.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the company behind the electronic voting system used in Kenya said Tuesday it needs more time to reinstall the system and will not be ready by October 17.