President Uhuru suspends Justice Said Chitembwe, forms tribunal to investigate allegations

Justice Said Chitembwe is accused of bribery and other impropriety. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has suspended  High Court Judge Said Chitembwe to pave way for investigations into gross misconduct allegations levelled against him.

The suspension comes months after former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko shared videos on social media accusing the judge of taking bribes.

While communicating his suspension, the president formed a tribunal to investigate him over the impropriety allegations.

On Thursday, May 19, President Kenyatta gazetted a seven-member tribunal which will be headed by Justice Mumbi Ngugi.

Other members of the tribunal are: Dr Fred N. Ojiambo, Lady Justice Abida Ali Aroni, Justice Nzioki wa Makau, James Ochieng’ Oduol, Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Jackson W. Ndung’u and Dr Lydia Nzomo.

“The Head of State and Government notes that the petition contains grave allegations regarding the conduct of the judge and further notes that allegations of gross misconduct on the part of a judge erode the faith of Kenyans in the fair administration of justice,” the gazette notice read in part.

The other parties involved in the investigations are Kiragu Kimani as the lead counsel and Jasper M. Mbiuki together with Sarah Yamo as the joint secretaries.

Assisting Counsels are Joseph Gitonga Riungu and Edward Omotii Nyang’au.

A fortnight ago, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommended the suspension of Justice Chitembwe, over allegations of gross misconduct and impropriety.

The commission also asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to form a tribunal to investigate the allegations.

“The JSC considered the report of the panel on the petition initiated by the Commission and is satisfied that the petition discloses grounds for the removal of Justice Chitembwe from office,” the Commission’s Chair and Chief Justice Martha Koome said on May 4.

According to Article 168 of the Constitution, a judge may be removed from office on grounds of-- their inability to perform the functions of office arising from mental or physical incapacity, a breach of a code of conduct, bankruptcy, incompetence, or gross misconduct.

A complaint had been lodged against Justice Chitembwe in November 2021, detailing allegations of misconduct to support his removal.

The matter was over how Chitembwe handled a land case in 2018.

The dispute was between Pacific Frontier Seas Ltd against Okapi Limited Estate and Jane Mutula Kyengo.

Chitembwe sued the commission, stating that the complaint could not be heard as there was a pending appeal over his judgment.