Two Supreme Courts, One In U.S., The Other In Kenya, Weigh Heavy Cases
Presumptive winner Kenyatta, and petitioner Odinga
All eyes are on two Supreme Courts, one here in the United States, and the other in Kenya -- both courts are hearing important cases.
In the U.S. there's expectation that the court will strike down as unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which dictates that marriage is strictly between a man and woman. The court may not decide that same-sex marriage is the law of the land and let states for the time being struggle with the issue.
In Nairobi, Kenya, thousands of miles from here, the country's Supreme Court is weighing a history-making case. It's poised to make a decision on Saturday that will show how much the country has matured since the turbulent election of 2007.
The court will determine whether to agree with challenger Raila Odinga's petition that the presumptive president, Uhuru Kenyatta, didn't win the 50%-plus margin required in the March 4 Presidential election, to avoid a run-off. A run-off would pair Odinga, the prime minister against Kenyatta, who was a deputy prime minister. He was recognized as winner of the presidential election by Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Supporters of Odinga, who filed the court challenge, contend Kenyatta was fraudulently awarded votes through manipulation of the counts and point out that in some cases, the total votes awarded to Kenyatta exceeded the number of people who were registered in the polling station. Kenyatta cleared the 50%-plus threshold by less than 8,000 votes.
Kenyatta's backers contend he won fairly and that Odinga is a sore loser.
The potential impact of the court's decision is of no small matter. Memories are raw and fresh of the bloodshed that claimed the lives of as many as 1,500 Kenyans following the disputed election of 2007. The world is watching Kenya closely. Right before the vote President Barack Obama made video-taped comments, played in Kenya, calling for peaceful elections.
Kenyatta and his presumptive deputy president, William Ruto, both face trials later this year at the International Criminal Court in connection with their alleged roles in financing or supporting the ethnic violence after the 2007 vote.
Any Kenyan official or politician who incites violence would be extremely foolish. He or she would likely face international action that could lead to prosecution. Perhaps that's one lasting lesson from 2007's upheaval.
Kenya's justices of the Supreme Court must carefully and judiciously weigh the evidence. The court's decision must be based solely on the facts -- the evidence presented. The court must not be intimidated by any politician, who would in any case face justice for any unlawful actions directed against the justices.
The court must also explain its ruling, either way, in clear and convincing language.
Whichever way Kenya's Supreme Court rules, the decision must be respected. If Kenyans pass that test they will gain global respect and admiration and show that their country is ready to be the beacon of East Africa and prepared to focus on reconciliation and economic development.