Mercy Mwai, Baraka Karama, Judy Akuma and Mike Ratemo @peopledailyke
Controversy over election-related court rulings favourable to the National Super Alliance (Nasa) escalated yesterday as the Jubilee Party claimed two judges were related to Opposition kingpins.
Jubilee officials alleged that there was conflict of interest in the High Court bench that issued two separate poll-related rulings, saying Justice George Odunga’s wife is a niece of Siaya Senator and Nasa counsel James Orengo while Justice William Ouko is related to presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s wife Ida Odinga.
Justice Odunga sat in the three-judge bench that ruled last week against the awarding of the presidential printing tender to Al Ghurair of Dubai, while Justice Ouko was in the bench that decided that presidential results tallied at the constituency level be announced at each of 290 constituencies. Both matters gave the outcome sought by Nasa.
The Jubilee Party accused the judges of being impartial in their rulings even as it threatened to move to appeal the ruling over the printing contract. The party officials further questioned whether Chief Justice David Maraga was aware of the said relationships. Jubilee’s Secretary General Raphael Tuju, who spoke at the party headquarters said: “Justice Odunga is related to Orengo.
Justice Odunga is married to Sarah Odunga, daughter of the late Arch-Bishop Stephen Ondieki (former Ugenya MP) and she is Orengo’s niece. Justice Ouko is a close relative of Ida Odinga.”
Tuju was accompanied by Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale, Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki and Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen.
And as Tuju’s team spoke in Nairobi, Deputy President William Ruto, who had accompanied President Uhuru Kenyatta on a campaign tour in Turkana, questioned why judges with relatives in the Opposition were appointed to preside over cases against the IEBC while it was obvious they could be biased.
“Where is the independence of the Judiciary when judges who are relatives of those who have cases with us are appointed to preside over the cases. Help us to understand what happens when appointed judges unapologetically show that they are biased?” asked the Deputy President.
Tuju said they were in agreement with President Uhuru and Ruto both who had on Sunday warned the Judiciary against delaying the elections, noting it was wrong for judges to participate in cases without disclosing whether they had any relations with the Opposition.
Tuju claimed Odunga had not only delivered rulings in respect to this case but had also participated in several other cases where he ruled in favour of the Nasa legal team that includes Orengo.
“The Judiciary should be alive to the fact that it can be criticised by anyone because it is a public institution. What we know is that part of the bench has relations with the Opposition,” said Tuju.
Duale said it was worrying that some of the decisions coming from the Judiciary had political bias and maintained the party had a right to continue criticising the Judiciary, individual judges and their judgment should they feel it was necessary.
Duale, who told the Judiciary not to break the law, accused Maraga of issuing contradictory remarks on various occasions. “We are appealing the judgment of the three-judge bench especially on interpretation of public participation (in the printing tender). Judges cannot purpose to do the functions of the Legislature,” he said.
Kindiki reminded the Judiciary that the Constitution does not allow conflict of interest and thus the judges ought to have declared their interests. “You cannot muzzle us and tell us that we cannot criticise judgments issued in the country.
There is a difference between criticising something and attacking someone,” Kindiki said. Murkomen was categorical that as Jubilee, they would not accept any form of dictatorship from any of the three arms of government.
Kindiki claimed it was evident that the Judiciary was aiding Nasa in order to postpone the elections slated for August 8 so that the country can have a coalition government. “The Judiciary is a threat to the rule of law.
We are not a monarchy, judges are supposed to develop judgments based on jurisprudence,” he said. But in a sharp rejoinder, Orengo denied he was related to Justice Odunga, insisting the judge’s wife was not his niece.
Orengo said in his 30 years legal career, he had never tried to influence a judge to rule in his favour. And secretaries general of Nasa affiliate parties also defended the judges against the claims.
In a statement jointly signed by Agnes Zani (ODM), Eseli Simiyu (Ford Kenya), Godfrey Osotsi (ANC), Hassan Omar and Judith Sijeny (Wiper) and David Sang (CCM), the party officials said the criticism on the Judiciary and on the person of Justice Maraga were unconstitutional and unfair.
Separately, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) cautioned political leaders against making reckless statements that could threaten the independence of the Judiciary.
Chairman Isaac Okero and Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli said the statements made on Judiciary during political rallies could be interpreted as threatening its independence.
Also coming to the defence of the Judiciary were the Kenya National Commission on Human rights (KNCHR) and the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC )who condemned political interference in the Judiciary and Constitutional institutions. Both commissions yesterday hit out at both sides of the political divide for their constant rebuttal of Constitutional institutions’ rulings that do not go their way contrary to being appeased if they are in favour.