Kenya’s High Court has ruled that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s planned constitutional reforms are illegal and that he is liable to legal action over the move which has raised tensions in recent months.
The prosecutor general’s office said the government would appeal the decision.
The reform plan, known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), would notably dilute the current winner-take-all electoral system blamed by Kenyatta for repeated post-electoral conflicts in the country. A referendum on the matter is being prepared, but the five judges of the high court ruled that the president does not have the right to initiate the process.
“The constitutional amendment Bill is an initiative of the president and the law is clear that the president does not have the constitutional mandate to initiate any constitutional changes through popular initiative,” the court said in its ruling.
As a result “civil proceedings can be instituted against the president for violating the Constitution, by initiating its amendment,” the judges added.
The Building Bridges Initiative came about after Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga in 2018 stunned the nation by shaking hands and pledging to promote unity after a drawn-out 2017 election battle left more than 90 people dead.
Kenya, with its diverse population and large ethnic voting blocs, has long suffered politically-motivated communal violence around election time, notably after a 2007 poll when over 1,100 people died.
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