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Ruto takes on Koome over election meetings

By , People Daily Digital
Thursday, November 25th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Chief Justice Martha Koome. Photo/Courtesy

Deputy President William Ruto and his brigade yesterday launched an attack on Chief Justice Martha Koome over her involvement in preparations for next year’s General Election.

Justice Koome is a member of a technical working committee on election preparedness that brings together various government agencies.

In a twin-pronged attacked through public rallies and a protest letter, Ruto and his allies want Koome to relinquish her membership in the committee on grounds that it compromises her position as CJ as well as President of the Supreme Court.

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA), through secretary general Veronica Maina, argued that given that Koome heads the Judiciary and sits on the Supreme Court which determines presidential election disputes, her participation in the team that has representatives from the electoral body, Interior, Treasury and ICT ministries and the Attorney General’s office threatens chances of a free and fair poll.

On Tuesday, Koome chaired a meeting of the National Multi-Agency Consultative Forum on Election Preparedness at the Kenya School of Government, which discussed the 2022 elections budget and came up with a report on how to make the poll free, fair and credible.

Two hats
The session was attended by representatives from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who Ruto allies have asked to resign because of alleged closeness to the DP’s main challenger Raila Odinga, representatives from the Treasury and ICT ministry, Attorney General Kihara Kariuki and other top government officials.

But according to UDA, Koome’s involvement in the team is not founded in law and is, therefore, “unconstitutional, illegal and blatantly in breach of the laws and regulations” and that her participation in the election planning will negate free and fair elections because she has created a perception of partiality.

In the protest letter to the CJ, Ruto’s team says Koome’s involvement in the committee is “tantamount to participating in electoral matters and in this case, “you are wearing the hat of those that are required to ensure all is set for elections, in this case being the IEBC, and thereafter you shall wear the hat of a judge and deliberate and determine any ensuing election dispute”.
Justice Koome declined to comment on the protest, saying she was yet to receive the letter.

“We have not received the said letter so there is nothing we can say,” she said through her aide.

UDA says the Judiciary “has no role whatsoever, save for determining disputes that may arise after elections” and that Koome’s predecessors David Maraga and Willy Mutunga never involved themselves with planning the 2013 and 2017 polls.

“Your participation is similar to allowing a judge to prepare submissions for a client in readiness for trial only for the same judge to sit, hear and determine it. We, therefore, call upon you to stop, abandon, refrain and cease from participating in the activities of the Technical Working Committee,” the letter says.

The party has copied the letter to IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, British and US envoys, the chairperson of the AU Commission and the Delegation of the European Union in Kenya.

Yesterday, leaders who accompanied the DP in rallies in Nandi and Uasin Gishu, echoed the UDA letter and told the CJ not to compromise independence of the Judiciary. The leaders included Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, MPs Aden Duale (Garissa Township), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) and Didmus Barasa (Kimilili).

The leaders said the Judiciary must be a neutral arbitrator of election disputes and expressed concern that should the courts be part of elections management, Kenyans will have nowhere to turn to in the event of poll disputes.

“She must not allow herself to be recruited into an illegal and unconstitutional outfit,” said Ichung’wa.

Murkomen said Justice Koome had no business engaging in election management with individuals who have made their political stand known.

Utmost humility
“I want to ask Justice Koome with utmost humility to run away from those conmen pretending to be persons presiding over our elections,” said Murkomen.

Barasa said: “The newly formed multi-agency committee has a hidden agenda that you may not be privy to. They will use your involvement in the management of the election as a reason to reject election results should they lose.”

Ngunjiri told Justice Koome not to work with leaders “actively campaigning for Raila”.

But even as the DP criticised the CJ, an election watchdog, the National Election Observers Forum asked IEBC to take action against the DP over his early campaigns.

The lobby group said that while Ruto has continued to hold numerous campaign rallies and meetings, the electoral body “has not reined in on illegal and unlawful activities he is doing in the name of 2022 campaigns”.
Lobby secretary Ng’ang’a Mugambi said the official campaign date is yet to be set by the IEBC and, therefore, the DP had violated the law.

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