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Why Kenya’s judges will shape next year’s presidential elections

By Christine Mungai
Posted on Friday, 27 August 2021 15:37, updated on Saturday, 28 August 2021 09:27

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is harking back to an earlier age. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool

When the Court of Appeal in Nairobi on 20 August ruled that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s plans to redesign government and hold a referendum were unconstitutional, they upended the ruling party’s succession plans.

Five of the seven judges on the Appeal Court bench backed an earlier ruling by the High Court that President Kenyatta could not launch constitutional changes through his Building Bridges Initiative, a plan he has put together with his new found ally Raila Odinga.

Their proposals would have created more posts at the centre of government, devolved more financial power to the county governments and created more parliamentary constituencies. Opponents saw it as a way to perpetuate roles for Kenyatta and Odinga in government.

Judge Patrick Kiage argued the President cannot initiate constitutional changes, then hold a referendum to get citizens to approve them. “Popular initiative is citizen-conceived and driven .. it must be initiated by the mwananchi (citizens) not the President,” said Kiage.