In Kenya, the Supreme Court considers a controversial constitutional revision

The Supreme Court of Kenya began on Tuesday, January 18, to examine a controversial constitutional revision project, at the heart of the political game for several years in this East African country which will hold its presidential and legislative elections on August 9.

The government has appealed to the highest court in the country against two court decisions that have blocked this text which plans to modify the current presidential regime.

Called the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), this revision plans in particular to create new positions in the executive branch (a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, an opposition leader) and to increase the number of parliamentarians from 290 to 360.

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According to outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, the originator of this project, this opening up of power would make it possible to dilute the rule of “winner takes all”, which he considers to be the cause of Kenya’s post-election conflicts.

But the text, adopted by Parliament in May and which was to be submitted to a referendum, was taken to court by its detractors.

A court, then an appeals court ruled that the president had no constitutional right to initiate such a process. The court also ruled that Kenyatta could be sued for illegally initiating this process.

Hearings before the Supreme Court are scheduled until Thursday. The judges will then announce the date of their decision.

Maneuver

According to analysts, even if the Supreme Court agrees with the government and allows the text to be submitted to a referendum, the latter cannot be organized before the elections scheduled for August 9. But since its launch in 2018, the BBI has reshaped the Kenyan political landscape.

His detractors believe that this is a maneuver by the head of state, who is not authorized to stand for a third term, to stay in power as future prime minister. The text formalized a truce between President Kenyatta and historic opponent Raila Odinga after the post-election violence of 2017-2018.

Since its independence in 1963, Kenya, which has no less than 45 official communities, has been plagued by politico-ethnic violence several times after the elections, in particular after the 2007 polls where more than 1,100 people died.

Raila Odinga, 77, announced in December 2021 that he would run for president for the fifth time. He is supported by heavyweights of the presidential party.

Vice President William Ruto, 55, whom Kenyatta had initially dubbed to succeed him, was gradually sidelined after the rapprochement with Odinga. In public rupture with Kenyatta, Ruto did not officially declare himself a candidate but displayed himself, holding meetings with drum beating.

He poses as a herald of “resourceful” of the common people facing the alliance of Odinga and Kenyatta, heirs of two Kenyan political dynasties which also come from the two main ethnic groups of the country, the Kikuyu (Kenyatta) and the Luo (Odinga).

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The World with AFP