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Kenya Decides: Supreme Court knocks out President Kenyatta’s constitution reform to expand parliament, executive

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As the 2022 presidential elections in Kenya approach, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s bid to change the constitution to change the country’s constitution has been labeled as “illegal” by the Supreme Court of Kenya. Thus, dealing a blow to him and his allies ahead of going to the polls in August.

Six of the seven judges overseeing the case at the Supreme Court said, ruled against Kenyatta’s proposal to expand the executive stressing that the President cannot initiate constitutional amendments or changes through popular initiative under article 257 of the constitution,”

The failed law would have expanded the executive and increased the number of parliamentary seats from 290 to 360, in the biggest change to Kenya’s political system since it introduced a new constitution in 2010.

The ruling was given by a seven-judge bench at the Supreme Court headed by Martha Koome, the country’s first female chief justice.

The ruling however left the possibility of adopting popular reforms – Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) – to be instituted by parliament or through other means, so long as the president did not have a hand in the changes.

The “Building Bridges Initiative” (BBI) was a constitutional referendum that occurred in Kenya in 2021. The initiative consisted of a series of 78 proposed amendments to the Constitution of Kenya and spanned 13 of its 18 chapters.

Many however disagreed with the BBI, most notable amongst the BBI detractors is Kenyatta’s estranged deputy William Ruto, who is running for the top job in August. Ruto believes the plan is a little more than a naked grab for power by a two-term president who cannot run a third time.

 

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Sierra Leone imprisons 11 military, police officers over coup attempt

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Sierra Leone’s high court has sentenced 11 soldiers and police officers to hefty prison terms for their alleged roles in an attempted military coup last year.

On November 26, gunmen in Sierra Leone freed 2,200 detainees and killed over 20 in military barracks, a jail, and other locations.

After the coup attempt failed, 12 individuals were charged with treason in January. On Monday night, a unanimous jury found 11 guilty of 20 counts, including treason, murder, and military uniform use.

Due to health difficulties, the APC’s Bai Mahmoud Bangura, the twelfth accused, is being tried separately.

Amadu Koita Makalo, a retired army major and former bodyguard of ex-president Ernest Bai Koroma, received consecutive 40-70-year sentences for multiple counts.

Two female police officers were sentenced. Ramatu Kamanda Conteh received 30 years of harbouring Koita.

The government attributed the coup attempt to Koroma’s bodyguards, who were ultimately charged with four offences. However, the government let him leave the country on medical grounds.

Ex-president, Ernest Bai Koroma was accused of participating in a botched military coup attempt in November, and on January 3, was charged with four offences. However, a high court decided on Wednesday that Koroma was free to leave the nation.

His lawyers labelled the coup attempt “trumped up” and a “political vendetta” while Koroma condemned it.

Two decades after a 1991-2002 civil conflict that killed over 50,000 Sierra Leoneans, tensions have risen again.

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Tanzania’s president fires foreign, information ministers

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Tanzania’s President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has announced the sack of two top officials, including the foreign minister, in a mini-cabinet reshuffle.

Hassan took steps to rebuild international trust in his economic and political reforms, including relaxing restrictions on opposition parties and media, which had been criticized for failing.

The presidency stated late Sunday that Hassan fired January Makamba, minister of foreign affairs and East Africa cooperation, and Nape Nnauye, minister of information, communication, and IT.

They are influential in Chama cha Mapinduzi, the ruling party.

No explanation was offered for their removal. Makamba and Nnauye responded slowly to calls for comment.

Nnauye was fired a week after a video showed him suggesting election results depended on who counts ballots and announces them.

Nnauye later apologized, saying it was a joke, but activists and social media users argued it harmed Hassan’s democracy efforts.

Muhammad Thabit Kombo became the foreign affairs minister and Jerry Silaa information, communication, and IT minister under Hassan.

While Silaa was minister of lands, housing, and human settlements development, Kombo was Tanzania’s ambassador to Italy. Two more ministers and deputy ministers were appointed, the presidency stated.

Since 2021, Hassan’s government has been lauded for rolling back her predecessor’s opposition and civil rights crackdowns. The arrests of a lawyer and an opposition leader last year have cast doubt on her government’s human rights record.

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