Susan Kihika, MCAs ignore court orders, push ahead with nominees' vetting

Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika addressing the press after a meeting with US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman at the County headquarters on December 13, 2022. [Kipsang Joaseph,Standard]

The Nakuru County assembly on Thursday vetted and approved nominees for the positions of chief officers despite two pending cases at the Labour and Employment Court.

Governor Susan Kihika made the decision on December 24 to send 24 names to the Clerk of the County Assembly for vetting and approval.

In the face of stiff opposition from some residents, the new administration has struggled to establish governance structures.

In less than two months, the governor and the assembly leadership face yet another possible contempt of court charge.

They have ignored court orders for the second time in the ongoing legal battle over the appointment of chief officers.

On December 28, the Employment and Labour Relations Court issued a temporary injunction halting the vetting, approval, and appointment of the COs.

Kenneth Odongo, a resident, has filed a petition under a certificate of urgency against the county public service board, the county government, and Kihika.

Other respondents include the clerk and speaker of the county assembly, the county assembly, and the nominees.

“The application and order of this order be served upon the respondents immediately. This matter will be heard on January 30, 2023,” Justice David Nderitu ruled on December 28.

However, the assembly was a hive of activity yesterday, with members in for a special sitting to vet the nominees and later table their report in the full House for adoption.

The precincts remained closed to journalists and the general public, with the gates locked and guards under strict entry instructions.

Attempts to reach Speaker Joel Karuri and the House leadership were futile because calls went unanswered.

“The vetting took place between 9am and 10am. The special session has already ended. You should look elsewhere now,” an official who requested anonymity told the press.

Another official told The Standard that the county assembly had not yet been served with the court order, so they decided to proceed with the vetting as planned.

“Unless the court order is served later in the day, we are unaware of any. That will be a little late, as we have already finished our part,” the official said.

Acting County Secretary Samuel Mwaura made the announcement via the county government’s official social media accounts at 10.53am.

“The Nakuru County Assembly has approved the following individuals for the positions of Chief Officers. They have been appointed as Chief Officers by the Governor, effective immediately,” Dr Mwaura wrote.

Surprisingly, Abdallah Salim Swaleh, whose name had been forwarded to the county assembly for consideration, was not among the approved COs.

Swaleh, a journalist, had been nominated as CO at the ICT, E-Government, and Public Communication department.

The same court had stopped the vetting of Kihika’s 21 CO nominees on November 14 in a petition filed by the same petitioner.

The county assembly, on the other hand, vetted more than half of the nominees before calling a halt to the process, which resulted in the speaker, Karuri Maina, and Kihika being charged with contempt of court.

Kihika and Maina filed an appeal with the court of appeal, where the governor said she was seeking an out-of-court settlement through her lawyer Prof Tom Ojienda.

“We are negotiating with the petitioner (Odongo) to see if the matter can be resolved outside of court,” Ojienda said in court before Justices Fatuma Sichale, Weldon Korir, and Lydia Achode.

The case was adjourned by the three judges, who gave Kihika and the petitioner 28 days to find a solution before the case resumed on January 16, 2023.

The Standard
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