Kenyan court invalidates election of county governor

A Kenyan appellate court on Friday nullified the election of Wajir county governor, upholding a high court judgement that Mohamed Mohamud was not validly elected into office, and called for a new vote in sixty days.

A high court judge sitting in Nairobi on 12 January ruled that the election of Mohamed Mohamud, Kenya’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as the governor of Wajir County was null and void.

The cancellation of Mohamud’s win came in a response to a petition file by the former governor Ahmed Abdullahi in September last year, nearly a month after the country’s electoral body declared Mohamud the winner, seeking to nullify his election on the grounds of lacking educational qualifications to be a governor, and that the election was not conducted in accordance with the the constitution and the electoral laws, and was electronically manipulated.

The ambassador appealed the court’s decision and lost.

Mr Mohamud, a member of the ruling party Jubilee, becomes the first governor and the second high profile figure to lose a seat after President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose election victory in the August 2017 election was cancelled by the Supreme Court of Kenya.

There has also been alleged widespread discrepancies between official forms recording results from tallying centers and the aggregated electronic results announced by election officials.

The court found out that Mohamud did not have a valid undergraduate degree certificate when he was cleared to run for office as required by law, and that the election itself was marred in irregularities, thus making his election invalid.

Mohamud maintained that he had a Bachelors Degree from Kampala University in Uganda but struggled to convince judges how he obtained it. He failed to appear before High Court Judge Alfred Mabeya when summoned to defend allegations that he presented a fake degree certificate for clearance to run for office in 2017.

The high court also found that he did not have an “O” level certificate.

The elections commisison, IEBC, was accused of conducting sham and irregular elections, but also clearing unqualified persons and individuals with questionable integrity to run for offices.

Although the country still faces democratic challenges, it has come a long way in ensuring justice is served and its citizens can turn to its courts for protection.

Mohamud, the immediate-former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, served as a minister in Mwai Kibaki’s administration between 2004 and 2007, an assistant minister in the government of Kenya’s longest-serving president, Daniel arap Moi, between 1998 and 2002, and as a member of parliament representing Wajir East for a decade.

Interestingly, no one or institution has ever questioned his educational qualifications until the former governor, during the August 2017 election campaign, warned Wajir voters against electing someone with no “formal education and lacks capacity” in leading them.

Wajir, a county in northeastern Kenya that borders both Somalia and Ethiopia, is one of the poorest counties and the third largest in the country. Poverty level is well above 60 percent and so is the illiteracy level. Most of its residents are pastoralists.

A new devolution system, voted for by Kenyans in 2010 and first implemented in 2013, gave a new life-line to Wajir and other poor and marginalized counties. Through this system, the central government disperses funds, though not always sufficient, to counties for local development.

A 2016 World Bank praised Wajir County’s success in devolution and accelerating growth in previous neglected areas. The local government also won accolades from the country’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, “for being an example of success of devolution” on several occassions, although they belonged to different political parties.

Today’s ruling reaffirms the Kenyan judiciary’s independence as the governor whose election was nullified is a member of the ruling Jubilee Party

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