LSK election overshadowed by political intrigues and boycott

Newly elected president of Law society of Kenya Allen Gichuhi (Right) flanked by his deputy Harriett Chiggai (Left) follow transmission election results at Law society of Kenya headquarter office in Lavington on 22nd February 2018 .[Edward Kiplimo]

Allen Gichuhi is the new Law Society of Kenya (LSK) president after emerging victorious in a poll overshadowed by political intrigues and boycott from young lawyers.

From the onset of the campaigns to replace outgoing president Isaac Okero, the battle for the LSK leadership was viewed as an extension of the political fights between Jubilee Party and the National Super Alliance.

Mr Gichuhi garnered 2,675 votes to beat his only rival James Mwamu who managed 2,145 votes in the elections conducted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in 28 court stations across Kenya.

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“My first agenda will be to unite the LSK Council so that we work as a team. Our work will be member driven, to bring back the society’s glory and ensure that no one is complaining of being discriminated,” said Gichuhi.

For Mr Gichuhi, it has been a two-year wait for the coveted LSK president seat, having lost to Mr Okero in the 2015 election. He fought to overcome a ‘Government sponsored candidate’ tag, and repeatedly said those who associated him with the Jubilee Party will be shocked if he wins.

“I know I am being accused of being a Jubilee candidate and viewed along tribal lines. But those are tribal bigots who don’t understand me. LSK must be apolitical and should not lean on one political side, my candidature is clean and not leaning on any political side,” Gichuhi said.

Many lawyers argued that when the campaigns started, Gichuhi was being bankrolled by the Government while lawyer Nelson Havi was the NASA-sponsored candidate. Mr Havi was however locked out at the last minute for not meeting the qualifications.

Havi did not shy away from his association with NASA, and has been in the forefront in defending their leaders after the Government crackdown following the controversial swearing-in of Raila Odinga as the people’s president.

His failure to convince both the High Court and the Court of Appeal to do away with the minimum 15 years experience for LSK presidency led to the disappointment of his backers, and many young lawyers who boycotted the polls under the rallying cal ‘can’t vie, can’t vote’. This affected the voter turnout. Out of nearly 10,000 registered lawyers in Kenya, only 4,820 (less than 50 per cent) turned up to vote.

Among the first people to congratulate Gichuhi was Jubilee stalwart and Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, raising fears among some lawyers that he may not have the guts to face the Government.

“We know him as a reformer, but the suspicion that he is closely associated with Jubilee makes us fear that he may not have the courage to face the Government when they do things contrary to the rule of law,” said a senior lawyer. Gichuhi however steered away from the political debate, saying his task will be to lead the society to achieve its core mandate of helping the public access justice and shield innocent Kenyans from unwarranted charges.

Political lines

He also wants to ensure the LSK Council is united, unlike its predecessor which was divided along political lines and hardly arrived at any collective decision.

“I will start by implementing my five-point manifesto and push for amendments to the LSK Act to change the composition of the council. We need to reserve a seat in the council for young lawyers and special interest groups,” he  said. He will be deputised by Harriette Chiggai who defeated Joy Brenda Masinde.

Ms Roseline Odede also got a place in the LSK council after defeating Francis Masika in the category of lawyers with over 25 years experience.

Other council members elected were Maria Mbeneka, Eric Wafula, Aluso Ingati, Boniface Akusala, Bernard Ng’etich, Jane Masai, David Njuguna, Hetrine Kabita, Caroline Kamende and Ndinda Kinyili.