Uhuru Kenyatta has a perfect opportunity to postpone Kenya’s 2022 general elections

The Africa Court on Human and People’s Rights has given president Uhuru Kenyatta a blank cheque to extend the 2022 general elections, can he cash it?

Africa Court on Human and People’s Rights has given him a blank cheque, can he cash it?

By The Weekly Vision team

President Uhuru Kenyatta can cling on to power beyond August 2022, that is if he still wants to continue in the office using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse. This is according to an advisory opinion delivered by the Africa Court on Human and People’s Rights.

The court ruled that African Union member States are at liberty to call off an election if there is an “emergency or a health crisis” All Uhuru Kenyatta needs to do is announce Covid-19 as a “national epidemic” and then move to impose a prolonged lockdown. According to the Arusha-based court, an election can be pushed upon the government consulting health agencies, political actors, and civil society groups. Kenya must hold elections by August 9 202 according to Kenya’s 2010 constitution.

An 11-judge bench led by Justice Imani Aboud was determining an advisory sought by Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU). “States may decide to conduct or not to conduct elections in the context of a public health emergency or a pandemic.”

The opinion delivered by the Africa Court on Human and People’s Rights drew an immediate uproar with Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga joining a chorus of Kenyans dismissing any attempt at delaying the crucial poll in 2022

According to the judges, each member state should however create their laws on what happens after the expiry of the term of office of elected officials. The opinion delivered by the Africa Court on Human and People’s Rights drew an immediate uproar with Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga joining a chorus of Kenyans dismissing any attempt at delaying the crucial poll in 2022. President Uhuru Kenyatta has in the past repeatedly stated he had no intention of extending his stay in office saying that he was “eager to go home”

The Arusha-based lawyers’ lobby floated two issues for the court to determine. The lobby wanted the court to interpret if member States can hold elections during the Covid-19 crisis. At the same time, PALU asked the court to set up standards for conducting elections during Covid-19.

The organisation argued that the Covid-19 pandemic poses serious challenges to democratic governance, the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights, and the organising of elections.

This position was supported by Kenya’s non-governmental organisations who strongly argued for putting systems in place to safeguard both health concerns and civil liberties of wananchi to choose their leaders.

But COTU boss Francis Atwoli supported calls to postpone the poll if holding elections will put Kenyan lives in “grave peril” from the Covid- 19 pandemic. He said elections have to be held after a period of campaigns during which Covid -19 health regulations are likely to be ignored by political actors as seen from rallies at recent by-elections.

He said this would expose Kenyans to unnecessary health risks saying there is no hurry to hold “safe free and fair” elections adding “the country is not running anywhere but lives when lost can’t be recovered.

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