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Jubilant crowds dub Kenya’s top judge ‘an African hero’

Kenyan opposition supporters were stunned by the court’s decision to overturn the election result — and ecstatically happy © AFP / YASUYOSHI CHIBA

Kibera, Kenya, Sep 1 – “Baba! Baba!” the men cried, screaming out the nickname of Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga as they rolled about in the middle of a road, clutching a campaign poster with his picture on it.

Moments earlier a man in a full gorilla suit zipped by on a motorbike, standing tall, hooting the horn and waving as people lining the road cheered him on.

As the shocking news spread that the Supreme Court had decided to annul the result of the August 8 presidential election and order a fresh vote within 60 days, scenes of jubilation erupted among opposition supporters across the Kenyan capital.

Crowds of dancing, singing opposition supporters converged on Olympic Junction in Kibera, a teeming shantytown in the capital Nairobi and a stronghold of Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition.

They waved leafy branches, blew whistles, shouted, cried, wept and sang celebrating the Supreme Court’s unprecedented decision.

The man of the hour, at least here in Kibera, was not so much Odinga but David Maraga, a taciturn lawyer with a perpetually amused expression — and the country’s chief justice, or CJ.

“He’s an African hero!” said Joseph Omullo, an unemployed 25-year-old college graduate among the crowd who was shouting to make himself heard.

“The CJ is exemplary!” he said. “All we wanted was justice to be served.”

Nearby an old woman did a shuffle dance, weeping and whooping by turns as she held a five-day-old newspaper above her head, a picture of Maraga on the cover.

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Chief Justice David Maraga, centre, was hailed by many as a hero for his unprecedented decision to cancel Kenya’s election result and order a fresh poll © AFP / SIMON MAINA

“This is the first time we’ve seen justice in Kenya!” a man cried out.

– ‘Justice has been done!’ –

Esther Osimbo, a 33-year-old fishwife, strode towards the heart of the crowd. “It is historic. Maraga is a great, great man,” she said adding, with a note of regret, that he is married.

A decision to overturn the outcome of the presidential vote, annulling President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 54 percent victory, is unprecedented in Africa and rare in the world.

In Kenya it took many by surprise as experience has taught that courts are routinely subservient to the president.

“In the whole world, all eyes were on this Supreme Court and the judge did the right thing,” said 36-year-old Frederick Oyieng, a night watchman, who was looking somewhat dazed.

“It was a surprise because the trend in justice in Kenya is not good, but this time justice has been done,” said 39-year-old accountancy student Donna Abongo.

“Kudos to the judges!”

Similar scenes played out elsewhere in Nairobi as well as in the western city of Kisumu where people danced through the streets, sweeping the roads with branches and crying out “Uhuru must go!”

“They have stolen elections for so long,” said Lynette Akello, a fishmonger, referring to Odinga’s claim that he has been cheated in three consecutive elections.

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“This is justice for Baba.”


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