Big blow for CORD as co-principal Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula’s win overturned

Moses Wetangula flanked by CORD members addresses supporters in Bungoma Monday.

KENYA: CORD suffered a setback Monday after the only co-principal who made it to Parliament, Mr Moses Wetangula, was stripped of his Senate seat.

Wetangula had been elected Bungoma Senator as CORD co-principals Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka were locked out of Parliament after their unsuccessful presidential run in the March 4 General Election.

But yesterday, the High Court in Bungoma nullified Wetangula’s election, citing a litany of electoral offences after a successful petition by United Democratic Front’s candidate, Musikari Kombo.

The judgment by Justice Francis Gikonyo threw the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) into crisis, as Wetangula was also the Senate Minority Leader.

Arguably among the most closely watched and controversial poll petitions, Raila led a group of CORD MPs who sat in the courtroom as the verdict was read out. 

Wetangula, also the Ford Kenya party leader, was slapped with Sh4 million costs of the suit. He becomes the first elected Senator to lose his seat through an election appeal. Raila condemned the court judgment, regretting it had cost the only elected member of the CORD Summit his seat.

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Injustice exhibited

“The open injustice exhibited by the High Court was expected. Hakimu amefanya tu mambo aliyoamrishwa. (The Judge only acted on orders to nullify his election). After the Supreme Court threw away our petition after the March 4 polls, the only remaining elected member of the CORD Summit was Wetangula, they were aiming at him and now they have hit the target,” Raila claimed.

An elated Kombo, however, said: “The county residents had been denied justice and fairness in the March 4 polls. I am happy with the High Court’s verdict. The people now have an opportunity to exercise their constitutional right of choosing the leaders they want.” But in his ruling, Justice Gikonyo cited evidence supporting a wide range of malpractices, including double-registration, vote tallying manipulation, double voting, voter bribery and ballots pre-marked in favour of Wetangula. 

The judge blamed the irregularities on Wetangula, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the County Returning Officer Madahanna Mbaya during the three-hour ruling. There was no evidence to show that Kombo was culpable, he added.

Lawyers Ochieng Oduol, Henry Mahakara, Amos Makokha and John Masinde represented Wetangula.

Kombo’s lawyers were Alfred Ndambiri and the late Peter Wanyama who was murdered two weeks ago. There was tight security before and after the ruling. Security officers had a hard time controlling the crowds that jammed the court.

The court heard that Wetangula was involved in voter bribery on February 22 in a Kanduyi hotel where 21 clerics were attending a political meeting. They were given Sh260,000 to influence them to vote for candidates aligned to CORD.

“The giving out of money amounts to bribery, which is against the electoral rules, which influenced the voting pattern of the voters to vote for some candidates. The integrity of voting was compromised and it did not amount to an accurate accountable, transparent election,” Justice Gikonyo said.

“Giving of tokens to voters is a serious electoral offence which should not be condoned,” he added.

There were also cases of discrepancies in filling out results in electoral forms that the court ruled amounted to electoral malpractice.

“In Kimilili, Bumula and Kabuchai constituencies there were no Forms 36 but the Returning Officer went ahead and announced the results. In Sirisia there was Form 36 but the returning officer only relied on one page to announce the results,” the judge said.

“It doesn’t matter the number of votes a candidate garnered; what matters is the integrity of the whole process. IEBC also played a role in the election malpractices,” Justice Gikonyo added.

At St Patrick Naitiri High School, a witness told the court that he saw the returning officer setting aside two ballot papers and also cutting the seals of the ballot paper. The officer was later arrested and charged with the offence.

Reporting by Grace Wekesa, Alex Namuliro and Daniel Psirmoi

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Musikari Kombo General Election Moses Wetangula IEBC Raila Odinga