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‘Who do you think you are,’ Kinoti barked at Maraga

By Moses Michira | May 15th 2019 | 4 min read

Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu in court last year. [File, Standard]

A new book has described the tense standoff at the Supreme Court on the day Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu was arrested, suggesting Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti snapped at Chief Justice David Maraga.

The book revisits events of August 28, last year, at the seat of the Judiciary, as Maraga and Kinoti were locked in a protracted standoff over the fate of Mwilu that was nearly getting out of hand.  

“Who do you think you are?” Mr Kinoti is quoted as telling the CJ, according to the report, after a daylong confrontation at Maraga’s boardroom that Tuesday afternoon.

Kinoti had grown impatient with the reluctance of Maraga to allow Mwilu to be taken away. The CJ was of the view that the Judicial Service Commission would investigate the allegations brought against her, including corruption, abuse of office and tax evasion.

Nasty events

Reading the mood amid the nasty events and what was likely to follow, Justice Mwilu surrendered to the detectives and was driven away in four cars – driving with full lights on and their sirens blaring.

She felt that the “affront to her boss was unnecessary and offered to go with the detectives”, the new report indicates, citing her decision as what broke the stalemate.

This is according to 60 Days of Independence, Kenya’s Judiciary through three presidential election petitions, authored jointly by the International Commission of Jurists – consisting senior judges, lawyers and academia from the legal profession, and the Journalists For Justice, which gives a detailed account of the mostly behind-the-scenes events surrounding the last three presidential election petitions.

Calls and text messages to Maraga and Kinoti seeking their version of events went unanswered.

The DCI boss had arrived earlier that morning at the Supreme Court premises to arrest the DCJ for questioning over alleged dealings with the collapsed Imperial Bank concerning a loan advanced to her.

Mwilu sits on the 11-member JSC as an elected representative of the Supreme Court, with Justice Maraga as the chairman while Anne Amadi as Chief Registrar of the Judiciary as its Secretary.

At the time the JSC did not have the requisite quorum.

It was not until last November that three presidential nominees Prof Olive Mugenda, Patrick Gichohi and former CS Felix Koskei took office, beside Attorney General Paul Kihara that the JSC had a quorum.

But Kinoti’s determination to arrest and charge the “biggest fish” yet was unwavering, going by the speed she was driven at to the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road and the subsequent presentation at a Chief Magistrate’s court at 6pm, after working hours.

Mwilu was freed on Sh5 million personal bond to appear the following day, concluding a day of huge drama.

But as it would be later reported, DCI had been questioning Justice Mwilu for several weeks leading to the arrest relating to private bank transactions surrounding the purchase and subsequent sale of some prime property.

Marked woman

Her lawyers argued in court that she was being persecuted for the position she took in the surprise nullification of President Kenyatta’s win on August 31, 2017 which shocked the World but supposedly placed her as a marked woman.

President Kenyatta did not hide his anger directed at the Supreme Court’s decision, even terming the judges as wakora – a derogatory word meaning crooks, who had gone against the will of the millions of voters.

Immediately after the remark, the Supreme Court and its judges became the target of ridicule, especially on social media where the President’s supporters spun the crook narrative that the members of the bench felt intimidated and feared for their lives.

The book indicates that the police even ignored  calls from judges, specifically Maraga, who intended to request additional security for the six.

For Mwilu, according to the new report citing insiders, she had been passionate in her contribution towards the ultimate shock decision of the Supreme Court judges.

At one point, the book reports, Maraga walked into his office and Mwilu who had followed him into the office sat on the visitor’s chair opposite him.

“This lady is a brave woman,” the book quotes the Chief Justice, repeating a second time in reference to her outspokenness during judges’ conference on the just- concluded presidential election petition. 

There was also the false confidence that it was only her six colleagues, behind closed doors at Crowne Plaza Hotel, deliberating the single biggest decision of any Supreme Court – that of challenging a presidential election outcome.

Unknown to her, State House was receiving live updates of the goings on including who said what and ultimately how the bench would vote which was annulling the outcome on a majority vote 4-2. Justice Mohammed Ibrahim was taken ill before the deliberations could be concluded.

Received call

On his way to the Supreme Court to deliver the ruling after the decision had been made, Maraga reportedly received a call purportedly from State House following the leaked information that should typically only have come out in court.

“It was not the only information State House had from the judges deliberations,” the book suggests, citing interviews with the people involved.

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