NGO bosses lose jobs as their removal affirmed

Former Integrated IDPs Support Initiative chairman Stephen Muthama during an interview on May 1, 2020. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]

A Nakuru court has affirmed the removal of three top officials of a local NGO from their positions.

Stephen Muthama, Everline Musuya and Esther Wanjiru had for nine years served at the Internally Displaced Persons Support Initiative as chairperson, secretary and treasurer respectively.

However, the organisation removed them from their positions on grounds that their appointment contravened the Constitution and laws of Kenya.

High Court judge Joel Ngugi ended the three-year dispute by ruling that the NGO followed the right procedure in removing the three.

Mr Muthama was replaced by Joakim Mwangi, Ms Musuya by John Mwaniki while Teresia Muiruri took over Ms Wanjiru’s post.

“The respondent’s role was to receive notification of change of officials and determine if the change was done in accordance with the Constitution,” said Justice Ngugi.

The judge said it was clear the leadership of the NGO, constituted before changes communicated on November 16, 2020, was also in contravention of its constitution.

“The chairman (Muthama) even admitted that no elections or Annual General Meeting had been held since the founding of the organisation, contrary to the constitution,” Justice Ngugi said.

He said allowing the three to continue running the NGO would be aiding them to violate its constitution.

“The court cannot allow the applicant (Muthama) to invoke the Constitution he chose to live by ignoring for more than 10 years,” Ngugi ruled.

Muthama made an application to the court on March 22, 2021, challenging his removal in a petition Justice Ngugi dismissed as lacking merit.

Muthama wanted the court to issue an order quashing a notification by the NGO’s board to change the organisation’s officials.

He wanted the NGO prohibited from effecting any changes to its leadership unless advised by people he said were bona fide officials within the board.

“The applicant wants the court to issue an order compelling the NGO to reinstate the status of the records of IDIPIS as they were before the changes,” read the application by Muthama.

Together with his two colleagues, they had been in office since January 30, 2013, when the NGO was registered.

He said on March 27, 2017, the NGO filed a petition before the High Court seeking compensation on behalf of 60,000 IDPs who are its members.

He claimed in 2019 a group of persons claiming to be IDPs, led by a Mr Mwangi, began a well-planned move to illegally take over the management of the NGO.

“The group purportedly held a meeting on March 22, 2019, and conducted the elections,” Muthama told the court.

He said Mwangi, Mwaniki and Teresia plus other alleged board members were not members of the NGO.

Muthama produced letters dated July 29, 2018, August 7, 2019, and February 19, 2020, where the NGO confirmed him and his colleagues as bona fide officials.

He accused the NGO of effecting changes without giving them any hearing. “The changes have completely stalled the operations of the NGO,” he said.

Mwaniki opposed the application on April 30, 2021. He said Muthama’s alleged criminal actions necessitated the members to stand up against him.

Muthama was charged with forgery in a case pending before a court in Eldoret.

“The members of the initiative felt dissatisfied with the officials and reached a decision to exercise their right by electing new leaders to defend them,” said Mwaniki.

The group’s legal officer Mercy Soi said Muthama was unable to carry out his duties due to his unbecoming conduct that had tainted the image of the organisation.

She said he was unavailable for meetings and could not take up his role as the chairperson.