Bernard Gitau @benagitau
Migori Governor Okoth Obado will still retain his seat despite being charged with the murder of Rongo University student.
According to lawyer Joy Mdivo, the governor continues to hold his office on the principle of presumption of innocence, but argued that Obado’s image is greatly dented. The principle dictates that an accused person is presumed innocent until proved guilty.
Appearing before Lady Justice Jessie Lessit yesterday, Obado denied killing seven-month pregnant Sharon Otieno on September 4.
Mdivo said even if the governor was to be convicted, he could still appeal.
“He is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. If he gets convicted, he will lose his seat as per the Constitution, which bars anyone convicted for more than six months to hold public office,” he said.
Another lawyer, Charles Omanga, weighed in on the matter, saying the Constitution and election laws allow elected leaders to hold office even when charged in a court of law unlike public or civil servants.
“It will be hard for anyone to go to court and petition the governor’s removal from office because he is presumed innocent until proved guilty,” he said.
He said the Elections Act also stipulates that the removal of an elected leader can only be pegged on conviction and exhaustion of all appeal avenues.
But it is not so for public servants, who are bound by the Public Officers Ethics Act 2003 and Integrity Act.
“If a civil servant is charged or accused of acting in the manner that does not bring dignity and honour in the office they hold, they step aside or are suspended until proven innocent.
But the two lawyers warned that members of Migori County Assembly can institute impeachment proceedings against Obado if they have enough grounds against him.
Obado would not be the first leader to serve while on trial. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto fought their charges at the International Criminal Court while still serving their first term in office.