NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s Supreme Court on Friday nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win citing irregularities and ordered a new poll within 60 days, a rare move in Africa where judicial power is often seen as an extension of government.
The ruling, broadcast to a stunned nation on national television, sets up a new race for the presidency between Kenyatta, 55, and veteran opponent Raila Odinga, 72.
Kenyatta called for calm and respect for the ruling, while Odinga’s cheering supporters paraded in the streets of his western Kenyan heartland. Last month’s election results sparked protests and sporadic violence that killed at least 28 people.
Kenya, a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamists and a trade gateway to East Africa, has a history of disputed votes.
A row over the 2007 poll, which Odinga challenged after being declared loser, was followed by weeks of ethnic bloodshed that killed more than 1,200 people. Kenya’s economy, the biggest in the region, slid into recession and neighboring economies wobbled.
Judge David Maraga announced the Supreme Court’s verdict that was backed by four of the six judges, saying the declaration of Kenyatta’s victory was “invalid, null and void”. Details of the ruling will be released within 21 days.
In the court room, a grinning Odinga pumped his fist in the air. Outside, shares plummeted on the Nairobi bourse amid the uncertainty, while Kenyatta’s supporters grumbled. But there was no sign of frustrations spilling over into anger on the streets.
The judge said the election board “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.”
Kenya’s judiciary went through sweeping changes after 2007 election violence, on a continent where many Africans complain of judiciaries that rubber stamp government or presidential decisions.