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Susan Kihika stares at six months jail term for contempt of court

Rift Valley

Governor Susan Kihika (center) flanked by some Members of Parliament at Nakuru Athletics Club in Nakuru. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Employment and Land Relations Court has found Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika guilty of contempt of court in her appointment of ten County Executive Committee Members (CECs).

Justice Helen Wasilwa on Tuesday ordered Kihika to appear before her on April 18 to mitigate before her sentencing to six months in civil jail or pay a Sh200, 000 fine.

Wasilwa ruled that Kihika disobeyed her orders issued in a December 5, 2022 order.

The court had quashed Kihika's list of CEC nominees, declared it unconstitutional, and ordered the governor to initiate a proper and legal process of filling the CECs position as per the constitution and the County Government Act.

"It is in my finding that the process initiated for the appointment of CECs was skewed and does not reflect the County's diversity. It should not be allowed to proceed," ruled Wasilwa.

In her ruling, Wasilwa said that Kihika did not follow the correct procedure as directed by the court.

She also took note that Kihika only withdrew and replaced one name from her previous list and on December 8, 2022, she submitted the 'new' list to the Nakuru County Assembly for vetting.

"The court rules that the new list is presumably the same as the old one, save for one name. It is clear that the governor disobeyed court orders," ruled Wasilwa.

According to Justice Wasilwa, Kihika's action warranted sentencing. She thus directed her to appear in person on April 18 for sentencing.

The court ruled on an application by Nakuru surgeon Dr Magare Gikenyi, who moved to court on December 12 last year to challenge the new list and stop vetting and swearing in.

Gikenyi claimed the nomination process was not fair, competitive, merit-based, or inclusive on the basis of integrity, suitability, and in consideration of ethnic balances.

"The Governor should maintain constitutionalism, the rule of law, good governance, non-discrimination, and protection of the constitution," he submitted.

He accused the governor of reintroducing the same list quashed by the court and changing one name to make it seem like a new list.

"Due process was not followed in the nominations, vetting, and swearing-in of the CECs," said Gikenyi.

Lawyer Kemboi Sirma who represented Daniel Kipngetich, another petitioner in the case, accused the governor of having a habit of disobeying court orders.

He insisted that the governor was aware of the court orders, but still went ahead to reintroduce nine of the 10 nominees, three days after the orders were issued.

"Once they were sworn in, the court could not intervene. It was a deliberate move by the county to ensure that by the time petitions were filed against the appointment, the swearing-in would have been done," he submitted.

He urged the court to find Kihika guilty of contempt and either fined or committed to civil jail.

In response, Kihika claimed that she did not disobey any court orders. Through her lawyer Professor Tom Ojienda, she submitted that the new nominations followed due process.

"She acted upon the issuance of the court orders. No other order was issued quashing the new list of her nominees," submitted Ojienda.

He said that although the process was quick, the new list was made public, noting that not all government processes must be subjected to public participation.

Kihika had appointed Dr Nelson Tanui (Water and Environment), Dr Samuel Mwangi (Health), Stephen Muiruri (Trade, Culture, and Tourism), John Karanja (Land and Physical Planning), Leonard Kipkoech (Agriculture), Roselyn Wanjiru (Public Service Management), Josephine Atieno (Sports, Gender Culture and Social Services), Zipporah Wambui (Education, Youth, and ICT), Stephen Njogu (Finance and Economic Planning) and Michael Kamau (Infrastructure).

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