Kenya’s highest court has kicked off discussions to weigh in on a legal bid to revive government plans to shake up the country’s political system, just months ahead of crucial elections.
The Supreme Court ruling on the proposed constitutional changes, expected after three days of hearings this week, may have major consequences for the August 9 presidential and parliamentary polls.
The government is seeking to overturn court rulings that had dealt a blow to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his allies by rejecting the reforms and the way they were introduced as unconstitutional.
The so-called Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) aims to expand the executive and overturn the winner-takes-all electoral system blamed for frequent explosions of poll-related violence in the East African nation.
But Kenyatta’s detractors see it as little more than a naked grab for power by a two-term president who cannot run a third time, with the BBI potentially allowing him to assume a new post of prime minister.
The BBI was drawn up following a rapprochement between Kenyatta and his erstwhile opponent Raila Odinga and a famous handshake between the two men after post-election fighting in 2017 left dozens of people dead.
The proposed amendments to the 2010 constitution were approved by parliament in May last year and were then due to be put to a referendum.
But just two days later, the Nairobi High Court ruled they were illegal as the president did not have the right to initiate the process.
Kenya’s Court of Appeal in August upheld that view and said Kenyatta could even be sued in a civil court for launching the process.