In Summary
  • On the sidelines of the conference, the September 1 ruling by the Kenya Supreme quashing the August 8 presidential election was all the rage.

  • The Supreme Court ruling was the first time in African history where a court had  annulled a presidential victory based on an opposition petition.

  • Most people are used to seeing African governments bashing observers for being pro-opposition.

An African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) conference on peace and security in the Horn of Africa just ended in Khartoum. A bunch from Nairobi was in the house.

A day before we arrived in Khartoum, the United States announced the end of its 20-year-long sanctions on Sudan, and it was probably one of the biggest stories in the country for a while.

There were newspaper adverts congratulating President Omar al-Bashir for pulling off the end of the sanctions.

On Sunday evening, purring with contentment, Bashir put on a dinner for the conference crowd at his presidential palace.

This was supposed to be a story of the encounter with Bashir, but we hadn’t reckoned with Kenya.

On the sidelines of the conference, the September 1 ruling by the Kenya Supreme quashing the August 8 presidential election was all the rage.

SUPREME COURT

The conversations started with “what is happening in Nairobi (or Kenya)?” The inquisitors presumed, and we, indeed, understood that they were asking about the Supreme Court ruling, and what at that point was a nearly sure fresh October 26 presidential election.

The Supreme Court ruling was the first time in African history where a court had  annulled a presidential victory based on an opposition petition.

Some people wanted to know what would happen on October 26. Would there be violence? Would President Uhuru Kenyatta win? Did National Super Alliance (Nasa) flag-bearer Raila Odinga stand a chance?

The more wonkish and studious fellows then asked “how was it possible for the court to overturn a presidential election?” With some people the discussion and analysis got very lively, but I soon realised that they really were not looking for a satisfactory explanation.

EXPLANATION

They were not asking a question. They were making a statement. They were saying that in an African context, there was no explanation that could shed enough light upon what the Chief Justice David Maraga-led court did. It was beyond our experience and comprehension.

So whether the court had displayed an unprecedented case of judicial independence; whether it had been biased in favour of Nasa; whether it had, as Jubilee leaders alleged been bribed; whether the majority ruling had been the product of a hyper-new Kenya, none of them were good enough to explain what happened.

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