For man who challenged election of Rigathi as Mathira MP, it was baptism by fire

Michael Gichuru,left, filed the petition challenging Rigathi Gachagua’s win but lost the case. [File, Standard]

Michael Gichuru, 36, spends most of his time worrying about Sh9.5 million costs slapped against him after he lost an election petition he filed against Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua’s win in 2017.

On March 18, 2019, then Nyeri Deputy Registrar of the High Court Nelly Kariuki sent Mr Gichuru to civil jail for a month for failure to pay the Jubilee Party (JP) legislator and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) Sh9.5 million in costs.

Gichuru, who was Phyllis Wambura Maranga’s agent, an independent candidate for the Mathira parliamentary seat in Nyeri County, filed the petition challenging Mr Gachagua’s election but lost the case.

From court records, Gichuru was employed as an agent for Phyllis Wambura, who came second in the election garnering 28,893 votes against Gachagua who garnered 52,757 votes. But he was petitioning the results as an aggrieved voter.

Mr Gachagua’s lawyer Wahome Gikonyo had sought orders to have the petitioner committed to civil jail to compel him to settle the Sh9,518,972 bill from the petition.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua during a press conference in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County. January 9, 2022. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

The court heard that in a judgment dated July 18, 2018, Gichuru the Deputy Registrar had assessed the cost at that sum against the petitioner.

The matter is now in abeyance after the plaintiffs applied to negotiate out of court.

Gichuru had hoped for justice when he started his legal battle immediately after the 2017 elections, in what he felt was an unfair contest.

The 34-year-old photographer, from Karatina spent his jail term at King’ong’o Maximum Prison in Nyeri town where he cut the image of a man under the ruin. For a man who had never spent a night in a police cell, Gichuru mingled with convicted criminals at the prison.

“I consider myself as a voice for the voiceless and since I was aware of so many irregularities that went on in that election that not everybody knew about, I decided to act,” he told The Standard when he was serving the jail term at King’ong’o.

He was still able to make light of the predicament.

“When I came here on Monday, an officer joked that I had chosen the day inmates were served meat,” he said, chuckling animatedly.

Gachagua’s lawyer said the matter had been stood over generally and the MP had since moved on with the realisation that the petitioner is unable to shoulder the costs.

“The client may overlook the matter but the reality is that it is at a state where the matter can still be revived,” Gikonyo said in an interview yesterday.

King’ong’o Maximum Prison main entrance, 2010. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

In Nanyuki, Sammy Ndung’u, an activist who had petitioned the 2017 victory of independent candidate Ndiritu Muriithi in the governor race, is still facing a Sh4.5 bill from the long-drawn petition which ended at the Supreme Court.

Ndung’u had unsuccessfully wanted the victory of Muriithi thrown out saying the politician had taken an independent ticket while still registered as a member of the Jubilee Party whose candidate in this election was former Governor Joshua Irungu Wakahora.

The Deputy Registrar at the Nanyuki High Court accessed the costs of that case to the amount distributed equally to Muriithi, his deputy John Mwaniki and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the respondents in the petition filed by Ndung’u.

And after the unsuccessful petition challenging Abdul Rahim Dawood’s win in North Imenti by former MP Silas Muriuki, Justice Anne Ong’injo awarded the MP Sh1 million and another Sh1 million jointly to the IEBC and the area returning officer who were the second and third respondents in the case.

Dawood of the Jubilee Party had won the race with 29,042 votes against Muriuki of Mazingira Greens Party with 28,894 votes, a difference of only 148 ballots.