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Kenya president warns judiciary after it nullifies election

Sept. 2, 2017 Updated Sat., Sept. 2, 2017 at 10:51 a.m.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks to the nation in this image taken from TV, Friday Sept. 1, 2017. (Associated Press)
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks to the nation in this image taken from TV, Friday Sept. 1, 2017. (Associated Press)
By Tom Odula Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya’s president promised Saturday to “fix” the judicial system a day after the Supreme Court nullified his re-election, and he warned the chief justice and judiciary not to interfere with the electoral commission as the country prepares for a new presidential vote.

President Uhuru Kenyatta again accused the court of overturning the will of the people after he had been declared the winner of the Aug. 8 election. The court on Friday said the electoral commission had committed irregularities in the vote and called for a new election within 60 days.

The judiciary has a “problem,” Kenyatta said in comments to elected officials from county assemblies. He also announced the start of his new campaign.

“We shall show you in 60 days that the will of the people cannot be overturned,” Kenyatta said. “We will come back and revisit this issue … Going forward, we must fix it.”

Kenyatta on Friday called the court “crooks.”

The Law Society of Kenya criticized that statement as inappropriate coming from the head of state, who under the constitution is a symbol of national unity and enjoys immunity from criminal and civil proceedings.

The president is obliged by law to respect and uphold the constitution, which means upholding and safeguarding the rights of Supreme Court judges, said the society’s chairman, Isaac Okero.

The Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association said it took “great exception” to Kenyatta’s remarks. In a statement, its secretary-general Brian Khaemba said that “we condemn this assault of decisional independence.”

Opposition leader Raila Odinga had petitioned the court challenging Kenyatta’s win, claiming manipulation. He now wants the electoral commission disbanded.

The commission’s chairman has promised changes in personnel ahead of the vote and invited the prosecution of any staffer found to have manipulated results.

Kenyatta’s party deputy chief whip in the Senate, Irungu Kangata, said Friday the party will use its numerical strength in parliament to stop any attempt to disband the commission.

Constitutional lawyer Bob Mkangi said the electoral commission likely will not be disbanded unless the commissioners resign or lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties reach a negotiated settlement. Using other ways, such as forming a tribunal, would be time-consuming, he said.

“With the shortness of time it would very difficult to organize a campaign and go after these guys. It’s likely the (commission) will conduct elections as constituted,” Mkangi said.

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