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Row over 'lack of dialogue' rocks Kenya’s co-operative tribunal

By Kamau Muthoni | June 29th 2015

NAIROBI: Internal wrangles in the Co-operative Tribunal threaten to cripple operations of the institution as its members and the deputy chair battle the chairman over allegedly disregarding them in his decisions.

The infighting has drawn Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed into a risk of six months civil jail for allegedly defying court orders.

The CS, together with his Permanent Secretary Wilson Wesonga and the chairman of the Co-operative Tribunal, Timothy Kariuki were cited for contempt of court for failing to incorporate three members of the tribunal in its sitting despite being furnished with a court order.

The orders sought from Justice George Odunga were sparked by the move by Mr Kariuki to dissolve benches that were hearing cases from co-operatives and kicking out some of the tribunal members, including his deputy. In his decision, the co-operative chairman ordered his deputy, Beatrice Mathenge and two members, Rahma Adan Jillo and George Otieno, out - thus sparking the litigation.

The three through their lawyer Dancun Anzala told High Court judge George Odunga that the chairman came up with the decision solo on January 27 this year and since then they have been locked out of sittings.

"Despite being served and having the knowledge of the order, the respondents (Mohamed, Wesonga and Kariuki) have blatantly defied the order and have excluded the applicants from the tribunal sittings. It is in the interest of justice that the prayers herein sought be granted in order to safeguard the image and the sanctity of the court," argued Anzala.

Mr Anzala argued that: "The third respondent (Kariuki) has prevented the applicants from undertaking their statutory duties by issuing notices cancelling sittings of the tribunal despite them being ready, able and willing to undertake sittings."

The minister was added in the case as the appointing authority - he is mandated to appoint members of the tribunal. His PS is mandated to ensure that the tribunal is running. According to the tribunal's deputy chair, Ms Mathenge, the tribunal has been in storms as the chair allegedly runs its affairs without consultations.

She told the court that her boss also decided to shift the days when the tribunal was to sit a sentiment he denied in his response. Mr Kairuki defended himself saying that he was called from leave after complaints that cases in the tribunal had stalled.

Justice Odunga had issued orders that the tribunal should run as constituted, meaning the three would have to be in the tribunal's sittings. He will rule on the contempt case after hearing from both sides.

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