Kenya’s Supreme Court hears a petition on Wednesday challenging the victory by Uhuru Kenyatta in this month’s presidential election, a case that will test Kenyan democracy five years after a disputed vote ignited tribal violence. Peaceful voting on March 4 went a long way to restoring Kenya’s reputation as one of Africa’s more stable democracies, reinforced when losing candidate Raila Odinga took his challenge to court rather than letting it play out on the streets. But the final test will come on Saturday, the deadline for the court to announce its ruling after petition hearings on Wednesday and Thursday. That is when the court will decide whether to uphold Kenyatta’s win or order another vote.
Western diplomats, whose nations are big donors to Kenya, see little chance of another spasm of violence, partly because Kenyans now have more confidence that the reformed judiciary will adjudicate fairly. But the U.S. Embassy has still warned its citizens in Kenya about possible unrest this weekend.
Both candidates have promised to accept the outcome and many Kenyans insist there will be no repeat of the bloodshed that followed the 2007 vote which left more than 1,200 dead.
“We are alive to the competing expectations the Kenyan people have placed before this court,” Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, a well-respected lawyer appointed to the post in 2011, said when he opened two days of pre-trial hearings on Monday.
Odinga alleged “rampant illegality” in the first-round vote. Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding president who is charged by International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity over post-election violence five years ago, said voting was fair.