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Kenya's Supreme Court Anuls Presidential Election Results

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Supreme Court of Kenya handed down a stunning decision today. It threw out last month's re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ordered a new election within two months. It's a rare show of strength by a judiciary on the African continent, as NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: A few weeks ago, Kibera, an opposition stronghold in Nairobi, was in flames. People were angry over what they said was a stolen election. So today, after the Supreme Court annulled the results, it was all celebration.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in foreign language).

PERALTA: Jane Akini says she was expecting tear gas. And instead, she says, the judiciary stood up for the little guy.

JANE AKINI: We are happy because there is justice. Justice - we have found justice.

PERALTA: Just down the street, George Ochieng says that this is a proud moment for Kenya.

GEORGE OCHIENG: I thank God that in Kenya, we still have brave Kenyans who can make decisions against the big man syndrome, the big-headedness and the so-called computer-generated leaders. The have been told that the common man here is the one who makes the decision, and we shall decide come two months' time.

PERALTA: The court's decision was surprising for many reasons. Kenya is a country with deference toward the presidency. An incumbent has never lost an election. And international observers gave these elections a thumbs-up. Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner by more than a million votes. But hearing a challenge from Odinga, the Supreme Court said they were convinced that there were, quote, "illegalities and irregularities" that compromised the integrity of the entire presidential election. Odinga called the ruling historic. He said it sends a message that will reverberate across the continent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAILA ODINGA: Our judiciary now knows that they have the power in law and with courage to challenge the mighty powers too many African presidents wield against the will of their people.

PERALTA: President Uhuru Kenyatta said he respected the decision, but he did not agree with it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA: Millions of Kenyans queued, made their choice, and six people have decided that they will go against the will of the people.

PERALTA: On the streets, there were some protests against the decision, but they were small and fairly quiet. Ibrahim Momar was celebrating Eid in Kibera. He says he doesn't want to think about politics because it has brought this country to a standstill. And his business has suffered.

IBRAHIM MOMAR: You have to eat. You have to feed your children. You have to pay rent in the house. So we want to move on.

PERALTA: But as we talk, a big group of Odinga supporters crosses in front of us, blaring their political party's theme song.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).

PERALTA: And at the same time across town, Uhuru Kenyatta is holding a campaign rally. He calls the justices hawa wakora - thugs who should remember they're dealing with a sitting president. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIZZLEBIRD'S "ESCAPE FROM REALITY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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