The Supreme Court handed Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti a lifeline at a time his political career was hanging by a thread.
For a governor who has been on sick leave for the past six months and whose county faces vicious power wars pitting MCAs and their speaker, a by-election would have been costly.
Awiti, 67, now rests easy but will have to work hard to re-organise his government and reconcile the assembly members. The Supreme Court ruling has also handed him a golden opportunity to put his house in order following allegations of graft and incompetence in the county government.
The governor had barely settled in office for the second and final term after a tough election contest when his opponent former Kasipul MP, Oyugi Magwanga moved to court seeking to nullify his victory.
Mr Magwanga won the first round when the Homa Bay High Court Judge Joseph Karanja nullified Awiti’s victory setting the stage for a long-drawn legal battle.
The governor reached out to some of the country’s best legal brains led by James Orengo and Prof Tom Ojienda and filed an eppeal. The Appellate judges upheld Justice Karanja’s ruling sending Awiti’s team back to the drawing board.
In Homa Bay and other towns across the county, supporters of Awiti and Magwanga staged demonstrations to either celebrate or protest the outcome of the ruling.
Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata who represented Awiti at the Supreme court said they were happy with the verdict. “The Highest court in the land has spoken. We thank our legal team. We are happy our victory has been affirmed and we are extending an olive branch to Magwanga and his team. Homa Bay is for all of us. Let us embrace peace and help develop the county,” said Mr Orata.
As Justice Boma Ojwang was delivering the judgement on the Homa Bay gubernatorial election petition, Kisumu Labour Relations Judge Nduba Nderi allowed Speaker Elizabeth Ayoo to serve for three weeks pending the ruling on whether her impeachment was legal or not.
Mrs Ayoo was impeached by MCAs for allegedly taking sides in her house work. The MCAs at one time allegedly assaulted her, vandalised her office and sprayed it with a chemical.
The court ordered that she resumes duty office only for her to find her office empty. She bought a few plastic chairs and a table, which were later vandalised by unknown people.
Nine MCAs were arrested and charged before a Kisumu court over the vandalism.
Yesterday, Magwanga accepted the Supreme Court verdict that upheld the re-election of Awiti.
“I can only thank my running mate, campaign team, financiers and supporters for standing with me till today. I wish them and the Supreme Court all the best,” he said.