NAIROBI, Kenya – The Kenyan Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a move by the president to amend the constitution, a major blow to a plan that strengthened the country’s ability to shape the country’s political future ahead of its election. Who will decide his successor.
The Supreme Court’s decision comes several months after two lower courts – the High Court and the Court of Appeal – both declared the move unconstitutional, on the grounds that Kenya’s law required a sitting president to initiate and promote the constitution. Not allowed
President Uhuru Kenyatta won a front, however, with the Supreme Court ruling that the man could not be sued because he has legal immunity as president – rejecting the two lower court decisions, Mr Kenyatta Malik. Had violated the rules. To make the case.
The President’s initiative would have introduced a series of constitutional amendments that expanded the scope of the Executive Branch, adding new positions for the Prime Minister, two leaders and the leader of the government opposition. It would also create 70 new constituencies, with many new legislators being included in the parliament, which already has 349 members.
Courts in Kenya, an East African nation of more than 53 million people, have acted as a counterweight to the president in recent years. Judiciary President Kenyatta has accused Kenyatta of undermining her decision. He is only the fourth president since Kenya declared independence from Britain in 1963, and the son of the nation’s founding father and first president, Jomo Kenyatta, who served for 15 years until his death in 1978.
On Thursday, a seven-judge bench delivered its verdict in a packed courtroom in Nairobi, with people from all over the country following a ten-hour long ruling of the rule on television, radio or online.
“I confirm the conclusion of the two highest courts that the president should not be a player and an umpire in the amendment process,” said Chief Justice Martha Kom.
Mr Kenyatta and his attorney general, Paul Kawahara Kiryuki, did not immediately comment on the ruling.
The decision is expected to have a significant impact on the general election on August 9, in which Vice President William Ruto will compete against former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Mr Kenyatta, who has served as president for 10 years and cannot run again, went out with his deputy, Mr Ruto, and endorsed Mr Odinga to become the country’s fifth president.
The Supreme Court’s decision could strengthen the hand of Mr Ruto, who came up against a move to reduce public resources in a nation burdened by rising debt, poverty and famine.
Kenya’s elections have been filled with racial violence, allegations of voter fraud and, in recent years, unknowingly.
Attempts to amend the Kenyan Constitution were first introduced in 2018, when Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga reconciled after the 2017 elections that ended in fatal violence. The two leaders said that the project, known as the Building Bridges Initiative, would introduce much-needed reforms and end the political system that undermined competition between ethnic groups for power and resources.
Even from the very beginning, the proposals received widespread criticism from legal and civil society leaders, who said Kenya, already loaded with debt, could not tolerate a broad legislature and executive.
Observers also point out that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga began as a way to build a broad coalition that would undermine Mr Ruto’s presidential ambitions.
Many activists also cite the project as an attempt to water the constitution, with the majority approaching 70% of the 2010 referendum, and what many viewed as a progressive document by Kenya that led the country on a new path. Set up The amendment also created the position of judicial ombudsman appointed by the president, which the former chief justice of the country said would end the independence of the judicial branch.
“The public interpreted this attempt to change the constitution as a back-door attempt by the elite to take power through the 2010 charter,” said Moretti Matiga, program director for Africa at the International Crisis Group. “It was boastfully done, as a possession of power and a job-for-boys scheme.”
For the first time three years after the proposal was presented, the concerns were overturned in court last year.
In May, a five-judge bench termed the move “unconstitutional, unconstitutional and invalid”, stating that parliament and the public, not the president, have the authority to initiate changes to the constitution. The judge also said Mr Kenyatta had violated the country’s governing laws and could continue to sue while in office.
In August, the Court of Appeal also rejected the government, noting that in Kenya “the days of an unaccountable presidency are long gone”.
Experts termed both court rulings a violation of Mr Kenyatta, who had clashed with the courts in the past and promised to “fax” the judiciary even after the Supreme Court rejected his victory after the 2017 elections. Mr Kenyatta was later re-elected to the re-election, which the opposition boycotted.
The court’s decisions also point to the political class that they are not above the law and that their actions “were subject to the audits of both the public and the courts,” said Waikawa Wanyuke, Kenya’s constitutional lawyer.
The rulers, he said, “showed how powerful the 2010 constitution was and the fact that it created some strong institutions, not just theoretically but in practice, and the evidence was with the judiciary.”