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New signings and old faces in Raila-Ruto presidential petition grand legal match

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IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati is whisked away by security officers and the clergy after chaos erupted between Azimio and UDA leaders at the auditorium, Bomas of Kenya Aug 15, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The Supreme Court petition to be filed by Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga against electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati and president-elect William Ruto promises to be a cutting-edge match.

On each side, the players who will be a battery of lawyers will determine whether the political game will have a score, a re-match between Azimio and Kenya Kwanza flag bearers, or mark the end on the 14th day when the referee, Chief Justice Martha Koome will blow the final whistle, alias judgment.

The line-ups for the teams have the known, new signings and those who have decamped during the political transfer window. Raila and his running-mate Martha Karua have made new signings and trusted old hands in expectation to give a thrilling match for a win.

The main strikers are senior lawyers Pheroze Nowrojee, Phillip Murgor and James Orengo. Nowrojee is an illustrious legal warrior and a five-star player who knows the field more than many. Nowrojee is said to be a legal genius. A soft-spoken and humble counsel, he has been in the legal game since 1965.

At 82, he is among the few brilliant legal minds remaining in the country who were called barristers at Lincoln’s inn, at the same time, an advocate of the High Court in Kenya.

He was in Raila’s team in 2017 and this time he is again taking the boots for a second match, although this time against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s deputy.

He is a man who has seen the struggles of Kenya’s second liberation alongside Raila and Karua, Kenya’s past, and the first historic presidential election nullification by the Supreme Court. Will he be second time lucky?

He will be passing the ball to Murgor, who is a new signing for the Raila’s team. Murgor, a former State prosecutor, has more than 30 years in his boots which may come in handy for the much-needed win.

He is also an old hand in presidential elections having defended former President Daniel Moi when his win in 1992 was challenged in court.

At the same time, Orengo will seal the firepower at the front. He is a gallant player who has stood on Raila’s side for decades now. The two; Raila and Orengo fought for multi-party democracy in Kenya and he has always been the trusted player in court for Azimio’s candidates.

Orengo, who was called to the bar in 1976, is the current Siaya County governor-elect. He was the man of the 2017 match when Supreme Court nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win.

Prof Tom Ojienda, Rarieda Member of Parliament Otiende Amollo will be on the assist while trying to outwit the rivals for a goal.

Ojienda captured the Kisumu Senate seat under the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket in the just concluded election. He has more than 20 years of experience in the legal field and holds a Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree from the University of South Africa, in Pretoria, South Africa.

The senior lawyer is also an old hand in the Supreme Court having appeared before that court to litigate Land and Environment Law, Electoral Law, and Commercial Law among others.

Those at the center of refining the game for the team are Prof Ben Sihanya, lawyer Paul Mwangi, Tom Macharia, and Jackson Awele.

They are trusted to seal the gaps in writing and research; at the same time are brilliant forwards who can shoot if needed to. Although the team has several new signings, it lost one notable player who played in the 2017 match, Nelson Havi.

He is now a signing for Ruto’s side although not formally listed in the A-team. On the other side of the play, Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua has hired a top-notch team to represent them.

From the list sent to us, it appears they are ready to send equal legal power and wit to defend the match. From the list, they will be also fronting a three senior lawyers forward for the game and who they trust will seal the IEBC declared win.

In his team are lawyers who defended President Uhuru Kenyatta in the presidential election petition in 2017 and have new signings. Although the lead has refuted that he is in Ruto’s A-team, his name has been sent to us by the president-elect’s close associates, at the same time, confirmed by two legal minds who are in the team.

Senior lawyer Kioko Kilukumi will assist him. He confirmed to Saturday Standard that he is in the team. The senior lawyer is a tough, meticulous craftsman who has represented the mighty and the downtrodden, sometimes pro bono.

When Ruto was charged with selling Ngong forestland when he was the Minister for Agriculture, Kikukumi successfully defended him leading to his acquittal after almost two years of trial.

In the Ruto team is Katwa Kigen, a soft-spoken but a brilliant man. In the middle of the play, Ruto and Gachagua have positioned Prof Kithure Kindiki, Dr Muthomi Thiankolu, Bomet Senator-elect Hillary Sigei and Abraham Sing’oei. Others are Omwanza Ombati and a Dr Musumba.

On the IEBC side, the players include Eric Gumbo. Gumbo was a 2017 signing and has been defending the commission in the pre-election disputes. According to sources, a final decision on who will be in the team will be known today.

Some players have already been actively defending IEBC.

It will be interesting to see whether it will recruit its 2017 team. Some of the 2017-team members include senior lawyers Waweru Gatonye, Kamau Karori and Lucy Kambuni and lawyers Mahat Somane, Wambua Kilonzo. Law Society of Kenya (LSK) will come in as an Amicus Curiae. Its team will then include the president Eric Theuri. Other team players to be known today.