Kenya’s highest court on Thursday halted President Uhuru Kenyatta’s disputed attempt to make major constitutional amendments, which opponents claim is an attempt to expand the presidency’s powers and has dominated early campaigning for an August election.
The proposals, according to his estranged deputy and presidential contender William Ruto, would have resulted in an all-powerful presidency, whilst Kenyatta maintained that the idea would foster power sharing among contending ethnic groupings.
The Supreme Court affirmed a conclusion by the lower courts that Kenyatta launched the reforms using a constitutional provision designated solely for citizens, not governmental leaders, in a majority decision.
“He can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,” one of the court’s seven justices, William Ouko, stated.
The planned modifications known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) were ruled down by the High Court and the Court of Appeal last year, forcing the government to file an appeal.
Kenya is the most prosperous and stable country in East Africa, as well as a close Western friend that hosts the regional headquarters of multinational corporations such as General Electric (GE.N) and Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O).
The country of 50 million people adopted a new constitution in 2010, with the goal of deterring the ruling class from repeatedly altering it to suit their short-term interests, as was the case with the previous independence charter, according to constitutional experts.
Kenyatta’s revisions would have resulted in the formation of 70 additional parliamentary seats and the establishment of many strong new positions, including a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and an official leader of the parliamentary opposition.
The president and Ruto have openly quarrelled about the ideas. Despite the fact that Ruto is running for president in the August 9 election, Kenyatta is supporting his longtime opponent, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, who supports the reforms.
Ruto warned his party’s delegates earlier this month that “they have promised us they would bring back the BBI monster because they want to construct an imperial presidency.”
According to Ruto, the constitutional reforms will establish an all-powerful presidency by giving the president influence over the court through a planned judicial ombudsman post.
It would also bring the legislature under the president’s authority by allowing him to nominate to the new positions that will be formed, he claims.
Kenyatta’s claim that the constitutional revision supported power sharing has been roundly dismissed by Ruto’s camp.
“I reject the notion that a unified nation is one in which there is no political struggle or opposition,” Ruto said, adding that the solution was a democratically elected government backed by a strong opposition.