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Court dismisses Mike Sonko, Karungo Thang'wa petition cases

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and former Kiambu CEC Paul Karungo Thang’wa.

The fate of Mike Sonko to contest Mombasa governorship seat seems sealed after court said only the electoral body has powers to determine his suitability to run for office.

This means that former Kiambu CEC Paul Karungo Thang’wa  may also not be on the ballot. This is because the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had failed to clear the two candidates to run for office.

In their ruling, Justices David Majanja, Chacha Mwita and Mugure Thande dismissed the cases saying they were prematurely filed before the High Court.

This even as high court handed a lifeline to other politicians with integrity issues by allowing them to contest in the August 9 General Election. This means that Nakuru Town East MP Samuel Arama will now be cleared to run.

Justices David Majanja, Chacha Mwita and Mugure Thande ruled it is only the electoral commission that has powers to bar politicians with questionable characters from contesting, and that the several suits filed to enforce provisions on integrity and leadership were premature.

“We find that pre-election disputes such as those regarding suitability and eligibility for nomination of candidates must be resolved by the IEBC in the first instance. The High Court’s jurisdiction is only triggered once the IEBC makes a decision on the issue,” they ruled.

The judges went ahead to dismiss petitions that challenged the eligibility of former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, former Kiambu CEC Paul Karungo Thang’wa and Nakuru Town East MP Samuel Arama on account that they were prematurely filed before the High Court.

According to the judges, the disputes which surrounded Sonko’s bid for Mombasa governorship seat and Thang’wa bid for Kiambu senatorial seat on account that they had been impeached should have been filed before the IEBC Dispute Resolution Committee.

They however noted that since Sonko and Thang’wa had been before the IEBC tribunal, there was nothing the court can do unless the commission’s verdict is challenged.

“Applying the same principles to the case at hand, we hold the cases concerning Sonko, Thang’wa and Arama were presented to this court prematurely since the parties admitted that they had submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of the IEBC dispute committee,” they relied.

Their decision however came too late in the day for Sonko and Thang’wa since the IEBC Dispute Resolution Committee had made a decision that they are not eligible to contest after being impeached.

The judges applied the same reasons for declining to bar other politicians having integrity issues and facing prosecution for various charges, ruling that any person who had questions about a politician’s eligibility should have raised it before the IEBC dispute committee.

In any case, the judges ruled that it was not possible to issue a blanket order against politicians with questionable integrity without naming them.

“We hold the view that the petitions are general in nature, raise issues without reference to concrete facts, do not allege any wrong doing against a specific person and do not have specific people against whom such orders will apply,” ruled the judges.

The judges concluded that although the petitioners had genuine concerns over the eligibility of some candidates cleared to contest, they should have first exhausted the existing alternative remedies by challenging the nominations at the IEBC dispute resolution committee.