Court gives Kenya referendum greenlight

August 2, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 2 – The Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court (IICDRC) has thrown out a petition filed by a civil society group seeking to have the August 4 referendum suspended.

In its ruling on Monday, the court said the case against the Attorney General, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) and the Committee of Experts (CoE) had no grounds and would not be in the best interests of Kenyans.

The three-judge bench also said it would be impossible to have Kenyans in the Diaspora registered as voters for the forthcoming referendum as requested by the petitioners.

Lady Justice Violet Mavisi argued that the petitioners were too late in filing their case; most of which were time bound. She however asked the IIEC to consider including Kenyans resident abroad in future voter registers.

“It is unrealistic to direct the IIEC to register those leaving outside the country’s jurisdiction as voters. And our proposal to the IIEC can only be realised progressively not immediately. The IIEC is fairly in its infancy and the costs of registering those in the Diaspora would also have to be considered,” she ruled.

The court also declined to take over civic education and the entire constitutional review process as proposed by the petitioners saying the plea went above the court’s mandate.

The IICDRC further defended the CoE from accusations of wasting public resources and also absolved the AG from allegations of altering the proposed document as claimed by the petitioners.

“They (petitioners) did not show proof of which document they were talking about. The court does not therefore find any justifiable grounds that the said issue abused the rights of the petitioners,” said Justice Mavisi.

Although the judges also said that it was illegal for public officials to participate in any political or referendum campaigns as seen recently, they refused to make a direct ruling on the issue.

“The orders will just bring confusion to the ongoing process and we would urge you to restrain yourselves,” said Justice Samuel Mukunya told the applicants’ lawyer.

CoE Director Ekuru Aukot commended the court’s decision and accused the petitioners of being trouble makers.

“They have been sleeping on their own rights to be able to follow the extent to which the referendum process has been regulated legally. I’m happy that the ruling concludes the fact that these (the petitioners) are just busybodies who are opposed to Kenya moving forward,” he said.

The IIEC represented by lawyer Githu Muigai also expressed satisfaction with the court’s ruling. 

“This means that the referendum is going ahead; it’s all systems go and we expect all Kenyans to come out and exercise their right as the court said. The over 12 million Kenyans ought to be given the chance to vote,” he said.

The case was filed by the Kenyans for Justice and Development Director, Okiya Omtatah, and five others. However, one of the petitioners – Sarah Nyokabi – withdrew her petition saying she was not aware that her name had been listed as one of those who filed it. She accused Mr Omtatah of misusing her name.

Mr Omtatah wanted the court to determine 75 issues all of which were rejected.



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