Kenya is an East African country accustomed to presidential elections. It is also familiar with election results being contested, often involving riots that sadly result in deaths. The 2022 presidential election followed this pattern, but only to a certain extent.
On September 5, 2022, the Supreme Court of Kenya ratified the election of William Ruto as President of the Republic, thus confirming the results announced on August 15, 2022, by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which awarded Ruto the victory with an advantage of about 233,000 votes (50.49 percent, against 48.85 percent) over Raila Odinga. The Court then rejected the appeals by Odinga, who had alleged fraud, and said that the irregularities reported were not of such a magnitude as to affect the final result of the presidential election.
After this result, it is appropriate to analyze the functioning of Kenyan democracy, which moves each time within the same scenario – elections, contestations, appeals, confirmation of the winner – often interspersed with episodes of violence.
The 2022 elections were the outcome of a surprising alliance that began four years earlier with the rapprochement – after the 2017 elections – between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, members of the country’s two most powerful political families. Indeed, after the usual post-election crisis to which Kenyans are accustomed, Kenyatta and Odinga, in an unexpected twist, were reconciled and appeared together, in early March 2018, shaking hands, a gesture that has become famous as “the handshake” and considered a symbol of bipartisanship.
The two leaders established the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a working group that met with citizens from all walks of life in Kenya to identify some of the country’s biggest challenges and then make proposals for constitutional reform. The working group released its report in November 2019. Among the recommendations, some aimed to ensure better power-sharing among the country’s many ethnic groups. They were adopted in a Constitutional Amendment Bill, which was passed by both Houses of Parliament in May 2021. However, before it could go to a public referendum, the constitutionality of the draft amendment was challenged in court. The final decision was handed down on March 31, 2022, by the Supreme Court, which found the bill unconstitutional, thus ending the attempt to amend the Constitution through the recommendations of the BBI.