Kenya’s High Court has blocked a government-backed plan to make fundamental changes to the country’s constitution.
The judgement is arguably the most significant ruling by Kenyan courts since President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win was nullified in 2017.
In a scathing ruling, five of the court judges said the constitution amendment bill, popularly referred to as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), was irregular, illegal and unconstitutional.
President Kenyatta and his political nemesis-turned-ally, Raila Odinga, unveiled the initiative after a truce following the contentious 2017 election, which saw violent clashes around the country.
The debate has dominated Kenya’s politics for the past two years and is closely linked to the battle to succeed Mr Kenyatta, who is due to step down next year.
The two leaders said the initiative, which proposes, among others, the expansion of the executive arm of government, would make the country’s politics more inclusive.
But critics say it is a selfish initiative to reward political dynasties, and that it will lead to a bloated parliament and executive which Kenya – a country already burdened by debt- cannot afford.
The BBI bill had been passed by the National Assembly and the Senate before Thursday’s court ruling and was awaiting a presidential assent, after which Kenyans would have headed to a referendum before next year’s elections.
In a four-hour televised ruling, the judges said President Kenyatta had violated the constitution by initiating a process which ought to have been started by ordinary citizens.
They also ruled that the BBI constitutional committee, a body created by the president, was illegal, adding that Mr Kenyatta had failed the leadership and integrity test.
They warned that the president could be sued in his personal capacity.