Kenya's poll dispute plays out at scholars' meet in US

From left: Kenya's Ambassador to the US Robinson Njeru Githae, Prof Makau Mutua and Dr George Njoroge at the conference in Atlanta, Georgia on September 9, 2017. KEVIN KELLEY | NATION MEDIA GROUP .  

Nairobi's ambassador to Washington and a prominent US-based Kenyan legal scholar have offered starkly different assessments of the presidential election at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

“I can categorically say here looking you straight in the eye that the Supreme Court robbed Uhuru Kenyatta of his win and stole the election from the Kenyan people,” the ambassador, Mr Robinson Njeru Githae, said.

Prof Makau Mutua, a former US law school dean and an outspoken detractor of President Kenyatta, took the opposite view, suggesting that the election had been stolen from challenger Raila Odinga.

Was rotten

“It was not just the presidential election that was invalid,” Prof Mutua said.

“It was the entire election. The whole thing was rotten.”

Prof Mutua, who had unsuccessfully sought the post of chief justice of Kenya's Supreme Court last year, also told the conference: “I was very happy I didn't get the job of chief justice because if I had ruled against Mr Kenyatta I would have been lynched in the public square.”

Following the 2013 election, Prof Mutua had tweeted that he would not recognise Mr Kenyatta as president, contending that the results had been rigged against opposition candidate Odinga.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mr Githae said he was stunned by the Supreme Court's judgment last month overturning official election results that gave Mr Kenyatta a 1.3 million-vote margin over Mr Odinga.

“They had no basis for coming to that conclusion,” the ambassador said in reference to the majority of justices who ruled the election invalid.

“Not a single election agent has even sworn an affidavit saying the results at a polling station were different from what was announced by the IEBC,” Mr Githae said.

The first time

It was on the basis of the transmission of results, not the results themselves, that the justices ruled that the election must be re-run, Mr Githae noted.

“What is important?” he asked. “The results or the transmission?”

Mr Mutua, who currently holds the post of distinguished professor and faculty scholar at a New York State University Law School, also said he was stunned by the Supreme Court's action—but for a diametrically different reason.

“What is shocking to me and puts paid to the claim the ambassador is making that Jubilee won the election … is the fact that a court of essentially conservative, establishment jurists have overturned an election in Africa for the first time,” Prof Mutua said.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“They have made us proud, extremely proud,” he added.

“They have established a position that is going to reverberate throughout Africa.”

Mr Githae took a contrasting position on elections in Africa.

“The problem in Africa is that people don't accept to lose,” he said.

“If you lose an election, 'it's been rigged, the election has been stolen.'”

Research fellow

The two men spoke on Saturday as part of a panel at the 10th annual Kenya Scholars and Studies Association (Kessa).

Kessa, which is based at Bowling Green State University in the state of Kentucky, is headed by Prof Kefa Otiso.

Dr George Njoroge, a senior research fellow at Eli Lilly & Co. and the holder of over 100 patents, was also a featured speaker at the Kessa conference.

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