88 top lawyers battle it out in Kenya election petition
A battery of the country’s top legal minds was Tuesday paraded at the Supreme Court as part of the team that will lay bare the law in the various petitions challenging the outcome of the August 9 presidential election.
Eighty-eight lawyers representing parties involved in the seven consolidated petitions appeared before the apex court that Chief Justice Martha Koome leads.
The main protagonists in the fourth presidential petition since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution are Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga, President-elect William Ruto and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The Attorney-General has also been named as a defendant.
Besides the four high-profile combatants, other petitioners supporting Mr Odinga have also fronted upcoming lawyers to sharpen their legal darts.
The petitioners identified by Justice Koome—sitting alongside Deputy CJ Philomena Mwilu and justices Mohammed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u, Isaac Lenaola and William Ouko—are Mr John Njoroge Kamau (E00-1), Youth Advocacy Africa and Peter Kirika (E00-2), activist Khelef Khalifa, Mr George Osewe, Ms Ruth Mumbi and Ms Grace Kamau (E00-3).
Other petitioners are Mr David Kariuki Ngari (E00-4), Mr Okiya Omtatah Okoiti, Mr Nyakina Wycliffe Gisebe, Mr Victor Okuna and Mr John Maina (E00-7), as well as Ms Juliah Nyokabi Chege and Mr Joseph Mutua (E00-8).
The Azimio legal team is led by Senior Counsel and Siaya Governor James Orengo, Senior Counsel Philip Murgor, Mr Paul Mwangi, Mr Jackson Awele and Ms Velma Auma.
Deputy President William Ruto, who was declared President-elect, has a legal team led by Senior Counsel Fred Ngatia, Prof Kithure Kindiki, Senior Counsel Kioko Kilukumi, Mr Katwa Kigen, Mr Elias Mutuma, Mr Muthomi Thiankolu and Mr Adrian Kamotho.
The IEBC and its chairperson Wafula Chebukati will be represented in the petition, whose hearing begins today, by former Attorney-General and Senior Counsel Githu Muigai, Mr Erick Gumbo and Mr Kamau Karori.
Senior Counsel Paul Muite and Mr Issa Mansur represent the four splinter commissioners Juliana Cherera (IEBC vice-chairperson), Justus Nyang’aya, Irene Masit and Francis Wanderi.
Attorney-General Paul Kihara Kariuki is being represented by state counsel Emmanuel Mbita.
Senior Counsel and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda is representing Busia Senator-elect Okiya Omtatah, while Willis Otieno is representing Mr Khalif, Mr Osewe, Ms Mumbi and Ms Kamau.
Lawyer Kibe Muigai is prosecuting the petition filed by Ms Nyokabi and Mr Mutua. Other lawyers participating in the petitions are Mr Stephen Mwenesi, Mr Apollo Mboya, Mr Jotham Arwa and Mr Jeremy Njenga.
Interestingly, some lawyers have switched sides since the 2017 petition. Mr Muite, Mr Mansur and Mr Paul Nyamodi unsuccessfully defended the first presidential petition of 2017 filed by Mr Odinga. Mr Muite was lead counsel for IEBC while Mr Mansur was part of the team representing IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati. Mr Nyamodi was hired by President Kenyatta to defend his win.
After the Supreme Court nullified the presidential win, IEBC conducted a repeat election, which Mr Odinga boycotted. Another petition was filed challenging the process by activists.
By this time, the IEBC had revamped its legal team.
Five years later, Mr Muite and Mr Mansur have been hired by Ms Cherera, Mr Nyang’aya, Mr Wanderi and Ms Masit not to defend the election results, but to call for their nullification.
A bitter falling-out
The four had a bitter falling-out with Mr Chebukati, whom they claim oversaw perversion of the law in the entire election process.
Their attempt to file responses on behalf of the IEBC collapsed yesterday when the Supreme Court allowed the Chebukati camp to represent the commission’s official position, but the court said they are free to retain the services of Mr Muite and Mr Mansur.
Rachier & Amollo Advocates and one of its key advocates, Jotham Arwa, have also switched. In 2017, they were part of Mr Odinga’s legal team; now they are representing Mr Nyang’aya.