As Kenya draws near the set date for the re-run in the Presidential election following the nullification of results from the August general elections, public discourse in Uganda remains as divided as in Kenya on the implications of this landmark political event.
Legal practitioners and scholars from Makerere University on Monday engaged in a debate on what Kenya’s Supreme Court ruling will mean for regional democracy.
And while many argued that Chief Justice Maraga’s ruling was a new dawn of hope in Uganda and Africa’s electoral politics, some said it was dangerous.
Andrew Karamagi, a litigant with Chapter Four Uganda in his presentation lauded the ruling saying that a product is as good as the process.
He described it as “a precedent that it is possible for courts to challenge the legitimacy of an incumbent President” in Africa.
“Society must protect the robbed and punish the robbers. Rules matter and they must be followed. Progress cannot be attained by fear but rather through the many times of falling and getting back up,” Karamagi said.
In his opinion, the ruling is a major win in the struggle for judicial independence and the rule of law much as he admitted that none of the two comes in a single day.
“With functional national systems, we don’t need election observers to undermine the sovereign will of our countries,” he said.
Makerere University constitutional law don, Dr. Daniel Ruhweza opposed the idea that the Supreme Court judges ignored the socioeconomic implications of their decision, saying the role of court is to adjudicate.
“Unlike our constitution in Uganda, court in Kenya had only one role – to determine whether the constitutional and electoral law was respected or not. Therefore its hands were tied,” Dr. Ruhweza said.
However, veteran journalist and Managing Editor at the Independent Magazine, Andrew Mwenda cast criticism on Kenya’s Supreme court which he said as opened itself to political interference.
“I sympathize with the position in which it [court] was but I disagree with the decision they made. It is not true that the role of court is just adjudication. Courts make political decisions,” Mwenda argued.
Mwenda who says a perfect election is impossible to achieve remarked that in a poor country like Kenya, stakes in an election are too high and that court should have weighed the repercussions of this.
“Court acted on assumption that the re-run will be clean which isn’t true. What then happens if the loser again petitions to court? How many times can court annull the elections?”
In fact, Mwenda argued, by “judicializing politics”, court in Kenya has opened itself to being politicized especially now that Presidents are wary of court’s powers.
Even in an event that opposition leader Raila Odinga wins the election, Mwenda said there is a high chance that power will corrupt Odinga to attempt reducing the judicial power.