Kenyan court clears Kenyatta bid

Kenya’s High Court said, yesterday, it lacked the jurisdiction to rule whether presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces a crimes against humanity trial, is eligible to run for office next month.
- Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenyan presidential candidate
- Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenyan presidential candidate

Kenya’s High Court said, yesterday, it lacked the jurisdiction to rule whether presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces a crimes against humanity trial, is eligible to run for office next month.

With little time left before the March 4 election, the ruling effectively clears the way for Kenyatta to contest the polls.

“The High Court lacks jurisdiction to deal with a question relating to the election of a president,” the panel of five judges said in a statement read to a packed courtroom, saying only the Supreme Court could rule on the case.

Kenya, in 2007, erupted into bloody ethnic violence that left more than 1,100 people dead and hundreds of thousand displaced.

The ruling also applies to Kenyatta’s running mate William Ruto, who together lead the Jubilee Coalition party. Both men face trial at the International Criminal Court for alleged roles in the 2007 post- election violence.

Judge Mbogoli Msagha said despite ICC charges “every citizen has the right to vie for office... an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Supporters of the pair celebrated after the ruling, chanting their names.

“Our march towards forming a Jubilee government is still on course,” Kenyatta wrote on Twitter, shortly after the ruling. “Thank you for all your support and prayers this far. God is Great!”

Ruto added in a Twitter message that he believed his “quest for leadership will be decided by the people of Kenya through the ballot.”

Activists had sought a ruling as to whether the pair should be allowed to stand for office, as under the new 2010 onstitution, leaders must rule with “integrity”.

“This is an issue that is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court,” the ruling said.

Moving the case to the higher court would require an application by the coalition of civil society organisations that filed the case.

“This is the official death of the constitution,” Lempaa Suiyanka, a spokesman for the civil society groups, said, adding that since they must pay the cost of Kenyatta and Ruto, they lacked funds to continue.

“We are constrained by time and resources, we have not decided whether we will proceed with the case or not,” Suiyanka added.

Judges said since Kenya’s electoral commission had already passed Kenyatta and Ruto as fit to stand for election, any ruling “would end up usurping” the powers of the commission.

The politically volatile case has been repeatedly delayed, and an earlier petition was unexpectedly withdrawn in December.

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