Ruto’s name dragged into probe on Cherera Four
President William Ruto was yesterday dragged into the petition seeking removal of four electoral commissioners on the day their lawyers threatened to move to court to stop MPs from hearing the cases.
A tweet by Ruto referring to the four as “rogue” became the subject of debate during yesterday’s hearings of their removal from office in a session that was skipped by Azimio-One Kenya lawmakers who were meant to sit in the committee.
Both vice chairperson Juliana Cherera and commissioner Irene Masit made good their threats to skip the grilling session. Their lawyers, who represented them, questioned the President’s impartiality and whether the Justice and Legal Affairs (JLAC) Committee of Parliament had jurisdiction to hear the petition.
Apollo Mboya, representing Cherera, had sought an adjournment of the proceedings so that he could seek an explanation from the President on what he meant.
Mboya claimed that Ruto had already prejudged the four commissioners yet he has a role to play in the matter as he will be expected to form a tribunal should the Justice Committee and the House recommend the formation of one.
“On 25th November at 8:00 am, President William Ruto tweeted referring to the four commissioners as rogue officials. I believe that this will have far-reaching implications because this matter might reach his desk for the formation of a tribunal yet he has already made a determination on this matter,” the lawyer told the team chaired by Tharaka MP George Murugara.
“We are asking for an adjournment so that we can obtain a clarification from the President as to what he really meant and also so that we can get documents, including getting a copy of your ruling.”
Last week, Ruto in a tweet said that those who tried to subvert the will of people should be held to account.
“The lords of impunity, who destroyed oversight institutions using the handshake fraud, should allow Parliament to hold rogue officials who put the nation in danger by subverting the democratic will of the people to be held to account. A new order is the rule of law not the wishes of big men,” said the President.
In a rejoinder, Raila Odinga, who finished second in the presidential race, accused Ruto of seeking to take Kenya back to the Moi days. He said he would lead countrywide rallies to challenge the move to remove the commissioners.
Yesterday, he was at a press conference where Azimio-One Kenya Coalition MPs criticised the House committee over the proceedings.
At Parliament, another lawyer, Donald Kipkorir, who was representing Masit and was scheduled to appear before the committee skipped the session and instead wrote to Murugara informing him that neither he nor his client would be appearing as they believed that the committee lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.
“Since we raised our objections and they were not upheld by the committee, therefore, I and my client will not participate in the proceedings,” he said in his letter. “I am under instructions to also proceed to the constitutional court to quash any proceedings that may be adverse to our client as they are a product of a nullity.”
Committee members immediately rejected Masit’s decision and said they would proceed with the hearings. They said they would write their final report without the input of commissioners who fail to file written submissions on the matter.
Said Murugara: “Being satisfied that Masit has opted not to proceed to give evidence orally, this hearing is considered complete. The committee will proceed with the matter and if there will be a written submission we will consider it, if not we will proceed and write a report that she did not appear.”
Kanduyi MP John Makali and Kirinyaga Woman Representative Njeri Maina warned Masit that she should be ready to face the consequences of her actions.
Said Njeri: “I know the Counsel for Masit is aware of what her actions mean and that by not responding to this matter it means that all the allegations have been upheld.”
And Makali said: “This committee has jurisdiction to make a decision on this matter now that the commissioner has not appeared.”
Earlier, Murugara promised to provide to lawyers for the commissioners all the documents they would require. However, he said that standing orders 87(1) prevents them from discussing the conduct of the President, the Speaker of the National Assembly or judges.
“In any case, I don’t see a nexus on these proceedings with the tweet. This is not the time to discuss this matter. Our role is purely investigative to only find out if there is a prima-facie case for this matter and we may not go into investigating documents and twitter.”
While rejected a request by Mboya for a 14-day adjournment, he told the lawyer to make oral submissions by 8am today or written ones by 6pm to respond to the issues raised against his client and other matters arising from the sessions.
Earlier the committee members as well as the petitioners — the Republican Party, the Rev. Dennis Ndwiga, Geoffrey Langat and Owour Jerry — while objecting to the request for adjournment had sought to know whether Mboya had changed tune and now believed that the committee had jurisdiction to hear the matter.
Mukure-ini MP John Kaguchia said: “You need to tell us whether you believe that this committee has jurisdiction to hear these matters.”
Last Thursday, chaotic scenes rocked Parliament after MPs allied to Azimio-One Kenya Coalition, together with lawyers for the commissioners, stormed out of the proceedings.
The committee is inquiring whether there are sufficient grounds for the removal of the four IEBC bosses.
The petitioners argue that the four distanced themselves from the results just moments before commission chairman Wafula Chebukati declared Ruto winner.
Raila rejected the results and challenged them at the Supreme Court. The four commissioners backed his case. The Supreme Court threw out the case.
Now, the Murugara committee has 14 days within which to submit a report to the National Assembly as required under the House Standing Orders. Once the committee tables the report, MPs will have 10 days to decide whether or not the petitions contain valid grounds for removal of the commissioners.
Meanwhile, Azimio Coalition has called for a Parliamentary Group meeting today to chart a united front as it readies for rallies to oppose Ruto’s policies, including the attempt to remove the commissioners.
The coalition has indicated it will hold its first rally at Kamukunji Grounds in Nairobi tomorrow.
National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said the agenda would be centred on the summoning of the commissioners, the planned importation of GMO maize and insecurity.
“The meeting will agree on far-reaching measures for these issues,” he said when he addressed a press conference at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation in Nairobi.