The High Court of Kenya has scheduled the hearing of a case that could determine whether Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and former Cabinet Minister William Samoei Ruto can run for Kenya’s presidency and deputy presidency.
High Court Judge David Majanja set the hearing of the case for February 7, just weeks before Kenya’s first general election under a new constitution that prescribes leadership standards ordinary Kenyans had only aspired to in the past. Majanja’s decision follows an earlier directive to lawyers to consolidate three sets of petitions, which the lawyers did. Majanja said on Thursday that he will be forwarding the file of the consolidated petition later in the day to Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, so he can appoint a three-judge panel to conduct the hearing.
The consolidated petition is asking the court to determine whether Kenyatta and Ruto satisfy the integrity and ethics requirements laid out in the constitution as they seek to be elected Kenya’s top political leaders while facing charges before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Kenyatta, who faces five counts of crimes against humanity, is a presidential candidate in the elections scheduled for March 4. His running mate, Ruto, faces three counts of crimes against humanity in a separate case at the ICC. Their ICC trials are scheduled to begin in April.
The petition is also asking the court to determine whether other contestants for the presidency and deputy presidency fulfill the integrity and ethics requirements of the constitution. The other individuals named in the petition are Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga, who is a presidential candidate; his running mate, Vice President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka; and another Deputy Prime Minister, Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi, who is also a presidential candidate.
The three separate petitions were filed in December and earlier this month when previous petitioners withdrew a similar petition just as a three-judge panel was set to hear it in November last year.
One petition has been filed by Charles Ndung’u Mwangi and Public Corruption, Ethics and Governance Watch, a non-governmental organization. A second petition is filed by another non-governmental organization, the International Center for Policy and Conflict. The third and more recent petition is filed by the 10 year-old advocacy organization, Kenya Human Rights Commission, together with the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists.
On Thursday, the lawyers for the petitioners and some of the lawyers representing the respondents told the court they had agreed on a number of issues in an effort to speed up the case when the hearing begins. They were scheduled later in the day to file a statement on agreed issues with the court so that it can be included in the file that will be forwarded to the Chief Justice.
A draft of that statement seen by the ICC Kenya Monitor shows that the lawyers will be asking the court to determine the jurisdiction of the case. They will want the court to state which institution should first handle the case: the judiciary or the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Kenyatta, Odinga, and Mudavadi have received the endorsement of their respective parties, but the Electoral Commission is only scheduled to receive their nomination papers next week. This question would arise because the organization charged with managing the elections has not received their candidature papers.
To date, Odinga continues to lead in the opinion polls and Kenyatta is in second position. The latest opinion poll on the subject was released on January 11 by independent polling firm, Infotrak Research and Consulting. The survey was done after political realignments in early December that saw different parties combine forces and the leading candidates chose their running mates. Infotrak put support for Odinga and running mate Musyoka at 51 percent; Kenyatta and running mate Ruto at 39 percent; and Mudavadi, who at the time had not declared his running mate, in third position at three percent. The undecided stood at three percent.
In the upcoming elections, a candidate needs to receive at least 50 percent plus one vote of those cast before being declared winner. In addition, the candidate needs to get at least 25 percent of votes cast in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties to be declared winner. Failing that, the presidential vote goes for a run-off.
The Infotrak poll, which drew controversy primarily from Kenyatta supporters because of perceptions about the firm’s ownership, was conducted between December 28 and January 2. It is based on interviews with 1,500 registered voters. Its margin of error is plus or minus 2.53 percent. Infotrak financed the poll.