A High Court judge yesterday shook Homa Bay County’s political landscape after he nullified the election of Governor Cyprian Awiti.
Justice Joseph Karanja ordered a by-election, spoiling Awiti’s final term dreams, only weeks after members of his Cabinet took oath of office.
As Awiti comes to terms with the turn of events, three Coast governors facing petitions will be keeping their fingers crossed as courts in Malindi and Mombasa determine the legality of their election victories.
The High Court in Malindi will today determine the fate of Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi.
On March 1, the court will rule whether Fahim Twaha of Lamu was validly elected after a petitioner challenged his election.
And tomorrow, Governor Hassan Ali Joho will be at the Mombasa Law Courts for a determination of a petition filed by former Senator Hassan Omar. Justice Lydia Achode is presiding in the petition the former senator has tried to abandon without success.
Kingi will know his fate today before Justice Weldon Korir, who is expected to deliver his judgement from 9am at the Malindi High Court. The petition was filed by former Cabinet Secretary Kambi Kazungu.
Twaha will also know his fate before Justice Dorcas Chepkwony in the petition filed by immediate former Lamu Governor Issa Timamy.
Awiti is the second governor in Kenya’s history of devolved government to have his election nullified after his Wajir counterpart Mohammed Abdi suffered a similar fate last month.
Yesterday, Awiti, dressed in a dark suit and sandwiched by his deputy Hamilton Orata and top aides, lowered his head in disbelief as Justice Karanja read the last sentence of his judgement.
“Na watu wa Homa Bay mtarudi kwa debe,” (The people of Homa Bay, you will go back to the polls,” said Karanja.
The petitioner, former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga, shed tears of joy as his supporters rushed out of the court in celebration.
In his ruling, the judge also ordered that Magwanga be paid Sh6 million in costs. The electoral agency will pay Sh2 million while Awiti will pay Sh4 million.
Minutes after the ruling, work came to a standstill at the county government headquarters as employees came to terms with the ruling that could have significant impact on their jobs.
But as Magwanga and his running mate Joshua Orero celebrated with their supporters, Awiti faulted the judgement and later filed a notice of appeal at the Kisumu Law Courts.
“Whichever way it goes, we will emerge the winners. I have briefed the party leaders and my lawyers are working on an appeal,” he said.
Addressing a press conference in Kisumu together with his lead counsel Tom Ojienda and Mathare MP Antoney Oluoch, Awiti said he would not quit yet.
“I want to tell my people that the poll was annulled by a legal process and I have followed the same legal route to appeal against the judgement,” he said.
And Magwanga, who ran as an independent candidate alongside Joshua Orero, praised the judgement, saying it had proved him right that the election was not free and fair.
The judge, however, said he could not declare Magwanga the winner of an election which was riddled with malpractices.
In his judgement, Justice Karanja faulted the IEBC for conducting the election shoddily.
He said there were two sets of conflicting results in the governor’s election.
“There were two conflicting results presented by both the IEBC and the petitioner. It was the responsibility of the IEBC to distinguish the genuine one but it failed to do so,” said Karanja.
The judge argued that evidence adduced before the court indicated that there were unauthorised alterations of forms 37A, foreign seals on ballot boxes and a number of electoral malpractices.
During the hearing, the judge had ordered a recount of ballots in several polling stations.