Second time unlucky, Awiti faces bleak political future

Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti
Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti is keeping his cards close to his chest as he plots how to salvage his political career deflated on Thursday by a Court of Appeal ruling on Thursday that nullified his election.

There are indications that he will move to the Supreme Court in a last ditch attempt to have the ruling of the lower court quashed.

As the political drama in the county unfolds, the ODM party, which sponsored him remained silent on the next course of action. 

County Secretary Isaiah Ogwe told the Saturday Standard that Mr Awiti was headed to the Supreme Court and told his opponents not to celebrate.

“We are going to the Supreme Court to challenge the judgment. Our lawyers are working on it,” he said.

“In the meantime, the County Government is in full control. Work is going on.”

He did not specify when the petition will be filed in the highest court in the land.

“I cannot tell the exact date because it is still early. We are still in consultation with our legal experts but we will finally file the petition in the Supreme Court,” Mr Ogwe said.

Three Appellate Judges Phillip Waki, Fatuma Sichale and Otieno Odek upheld a High Court ruling that nullified Awiti’s win during the 2017 General Election.

The governor’s opponent, former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga filed the petition at the High Court.

Awiti has been meeting his legal and political advisors and could not be reached for comment.

But political observers say Awiti, a burly and humorous politician, has a slim chance of rescuing his political career.

He can go to the Supreme Court to challenge the verdict, accept the Court of Appeal ruling and quit and allow new faces to contest against Mr Magwanga in the by-elections.

He is commonly known by nicknames “Akuba” (the bigman), “Jakodondo” (The man from Kodondo) and “Rabolo idho tek” (You can’t climb a banana).

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ called for an end to the legal process to give room to development.

“Homa Bay needs a reboot. We have been caught up in a trap of inaction since the August election. The sooner the reboot the better,” Mr Kajwang’ said.

There are claims that some senior ODM senior officials were advising Awiti to abandon the Supreme Court route and instead face Magwanga in fresh elections.

“We are waiting for advice from our party leader Raila Odinga but there is a feeling that Awiti should just go back to the polls since he has a chance of reclaiming his seat,” said an MP who asked not to be named. “I am aware Jakom is closely following this matter and we are waiting for his advice.”

The governor’s lawyers led by senior counsels James Orengo, Prof Tom Ojienda and Dr Otiende Amollo were tight-lipped on next course of action.

Awiti and Magwanga’s supporters said the by-election will be a do-or-die affair given the high political stakes.

“Awiti is an ODM governor and the party will use all resources and tactics at its disposal to salvage the seat, but Magwanga is a big force to reckon with. It is not a small matter,” said Tom Okeyo, a former Mbita ODM official.

Magwanga, who visited various trading centres after the Court of Appeal ruling said he was ready to face Awiti in the polls again.

“Let him come so that we go for a by-election if he won the General Election fairly. If he is man enough, he should not run to the Supreme Court. He should face me on the ballot,” he said.

The political rivals were once bosom buddies, before political ambitions drove a wedge between them.

In 2013, Magwanga was Awiti’s chief campaigner. They fell out in 2014 allegedly over employment opportunities in the county.

Offices locked

Meanwhile, county employees kept away from offices as the reality of the court verdict hit home.

The officers included those in the department of health, lands, water and Homa Bay Town sub-county Administrator. This happened after unknown people locked several offices of the county government, minutes after the Court of Appeal delivered its judgement.

Homabay County Police Commander, Marius Tum said they had to cut chains and break padlocks to allow workers into the offices yesterday. “We have destroyed the locks put on the gates. We are undertaking investigations to establish who was behind this,” Mr Tum said.  

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Homa Bay Governor Cyprian AwitiCyprian AwitiSupreme CourtCourt of Appeal