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Sonko Leaks: Justice Chitembwe speaks out [Exclusive]

NATIONAL
By Winfrey Owino | November 18th 2021

Justice Said Chitembwe during an interview at Standard Group town office in Nairobi on November 17, 2021. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

High Court Judge Said Chitembwe last evening stuck to his guns saying he was innocent, as a storm over leaked tapes alleging misconduct on his part made rounds on the internet.

Viral videos posted by a Nairobi politician raised questions on the integrity of the judge in relation to a land matter being investigated by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI). 

But in an exclusive interview with The Standard yesterday, Justice Chitembwe downplayed the videos making rounds on social media describing them as ‘edited and manipulated to fit a specific narrative’ and that the land in question was owned by former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. The videos were posted on social media pages of Sonko.

“I have no problem. Let the videos go round because they are edited to fit a particular narrative. Some parts have been left. I knew about the existence of the videos in July and it was just a matter of when they would be out,” Chitembwe told The Standard yesterday.

He says the man identified in the videos as his brother is not related to him, adding they only reside in the same rural area.

“That man is not my brother, not my uncle and our parents are not related. However, I have known him for over 10 years because we both come from Kwale,” he said.

While dismissing the accusations, the High Court judge questioned the motive of sharing the videos online. He said whoever had any accusations to make against him was free to lodge a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the DCI.

Justice Chitembwe says on the day the video was taken, a consulate official of a foreign country had asked him for advice on a piece of land he was to buy from Sonko.

“He pleaded with me to allow him come to my house with the politician whom I had cut links with earlier. He was afraid he might be conned. I allowed the three of them to come to my house,” he said.

The land in question, Chitembwe says, was at the centre of a dispute after a petition challenging its ownership was filed in court.

“We were not trying to compromise any court case that day. They were pursuing appellants, asking them to withdraw the case for an out of court settlement,” the judge said.

He alleged that the video was taken by the consulate official, a close friend he had known since the 90’s when he was practising law.

“I did not know it was a set-up but from my own analysis, he was used to find a way to come and record me in my house,” Chitembwe told The Standard.

He says he has been friends with the former governor for years, and that their relationship took a different turn when Sonko filed a petition barring Governor Ann Kananu’s swearing-in. He adds that he reduced his interactions with the politician in December 2020 when the petition was brought before him and two others.

The judge alleges that the release of the videos was a revenge attack against him by the former county boss who he claims, was angered when his petition was dismissed by the three-judge bench.

“It is not a coincidence that the videos are released on the day of Ann Kananu swearing-in. He was angry the petition did not go through. He is on record asking why I dismissed the case yet I am his uncle. The videos were released out of anger,” Chitembwe said.

He believes he was targeted because they have a personal relationship with the former governor and that the mastermind of the videos could not reach the other two judges mentioned in the clips.

While responding to a statement by Eric Theuri, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Nairobi Branch chairman, Chitembwe advised them to avoid press conferences and follow the legal channel.

“Theuri should come to me directly and avoid press conferences. To me, this is a non-issue because it is a plotted revenge,” he said.

Hours earlier, LSK-Nairobi Branch chair had asked the judge to step aside and pave way for investigations into the allegations, giving the JSC 14 days to probe the allegations.

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