Kihika risks jail term over hospital dispute

Rift Valley
By Daniel Chege | Feb 21, 2024
Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Lands Court has given priority to hearing an application by the management of War Memorial Hospital seeking to have Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika and County Police Commander Samuel Ndanyi cited for contempt. 

The two allegedly violated several orders issued by the Environment and Lands Court in the past four months. Yesterday, Nyandarua Environment and Land Court Judge Yuvinalis Angima said the contempt application would be given priority as it involved disobedience of court orders. 

This, he said will be followed by hearing of the case involving the land on which the hospital stands. The hospital management wants Ms Kihika and Mr Ndanyi found guilty of contempt of court for disobeying court orders that stopped their interference with running of the hospital.

Justice Angima granted the hospital management, the county government and police until April 17 to submit the contempt case. He took over the case following recusals by Nakuru judges Millicent Odeny and Anthony Ombwayo on January 30 and February 8, respectively.

Yesterday, Angima proposed that the dispute on ownership of the 25-acre land where the hospital stands, be heard on a priority basis.

Angima expressed concerns that several orders issued against closure and takeover of the hospital by the county askaris, police and goons between January 23 and February 8, 2024, had not been complied with.

“I am unsure if the position will change if I issue new orders. I am also concerned that if the court hears applications filed by all parties, we will not make any progress,” said Angima.

He referred to the contempt application by the hospital management and another application by the county government, seeking to review the orders issued in Nakuru.

“What shall we achieve if I hear all the applications? We will only delay the case. Parties should agree on a middle ground and status quo, for us to proceed with the land case,” said Angima.

But the hospital management, through lawyers Lawrence Karanja and Kamau Chomba, submitted that they  would not proceed with the case until court orders were obeyed. Karanja urged the court to either deny the county government and the police audience in the case or to hear the contempt proceedings on a priority basis. “The court should not be entertaining a defendant disobeying its orders. The same defendant cannot demean integrity of the court and still seek an audience with it,” said Karanja.

He insisted that the hospital management was ready to proceed with the land case, but court orders must first be obeyed. “We will not participate in the hearing with a party not ready to respect the court. The integrity of court order is in question,” he said. Karanja said the county government must comply with the orders and return the hospital to the private management or be tried for contempt.

Prof Tom Ojienda, acting for the governor, deposed that the court should set aside the orders that stopped interference from the hospital. He submitted that the hospital management had been charged with forgery of documents that ensured it extended the lease for the land for another 50 years, effective April 1, 2021.

“This is a land matter, and this court has no jurisdiction to litigate on the medical facility or services at the hospital. Only the High Court can hear the same,” said Ojienda.

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