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Mike Sonko and suspended judge Said Chitembwe set for faceoff as tribunal sworn in

Former Governor Mike Sonko and suspended High Court judge Said Chitembwe. [File, Standard] 

Suspended High Court judge Said Chitembwe date with destiny has been set. Chief Justice Martha Koome yesterday swore in seven members of a tribunal appointed to investigate his conduct.

Court of Appeal judge Mumbi Ngugi is the tribunal’s chairperson, while members are senior counsel Fred Ojiambo, Justice Abida Aroni, Justice Nzioki wa Makau, lawyer James Ochieng Oduol, Lt Gen (Rtd) Jackson Ndung’u and Dr Lydia Nzomo. Senior counsel Kiragu Kimani was sworn in as the tribunal’s lead counsel, and will be assisted by Joseph Riungu and Edward Nyang’au. Jasper Mbiuki and Sarah Yamo took oath of office as joint secretaries.

“It is an onerous responsibility regarding removal of a judge, but we undertake to do our duty as members of the tribunal in a manner that will bring honour to the judiciary and to the country,” said the CJ.

Justice Ngugi expressed confidence in the team, and promised a fair and just hearing.

President Uhuru Kenyatta suspended Justice Chitembwe last Wednesday and appointed the tribunal following recommendations by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The JSC investigated three petitions, which had accused the judge of impropriety in handling a succession dispute while serving at the Malindi High Court and the impeachment case against former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.

Sonko alleged that Justice Chitembwe mishandled his case as a result of a land dispute.

The former governor claimed that since they were already in conflict over the land transaction, Justice Chitembwe refused to recuse himself from hearing his case and that he was heard discussing merits of the case with third parties to influence the outcome.

The second petition was filed by Imgard Beige and David Leboo, who accused the judge of mishandling the succession case.

JSC had also moved in its own motion after Sonko went public and released video and audio recordings purporting to show the judge discussing the impeachment case.

The tribunal, which starts its sittings within 14 days, will have a chance to re-evaluate the evidence, call witnesses and give the judge a chance to defend himself.

If found guilty, the tribunal will recommend to the President to sack him, but the judge has the option of moving to the Supreme Court to challenge the decision.

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