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Senator Moses Wetang'ula free to vie in future elections, Supreme Court decides

By Isaiah Lucheli | March 17th 2015

NAIROBI: The Supreme Court has cleared Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula of voter bribery accusations that had threatened to end his political career.

In an election petition that was filed by his political opponent and former cabinet minister Musikari Kombo in which the court nullified his election leading to a by-election, Judge Francis Gikonyo had found the senator guilty of voter bribery.

The Court of Appeal upheld the high court ruling and went further to recommend that Wetangula be disqualified from future elections forcing the senator to move to the Supreme Court.

On his part Gikonyo had recommended that the senator be investigated and prosecuted for engaging in electoral malpractices which can attract severe punishment from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) including being barred from an election.

In the judgment the judge had ruled that the senator had bribed some clerics who had attended his meeting at Kanduyi during the campaign period which was against electoral regulations, which compelled the senator to move to the appellate court and later to the Supreme Court.

The judge added that giving out money during campaigns amount to bribery, which had a great impact in influencing the voting pattern and also compromised the integrity of the voting process as it affected the "accuracy, transparency and accountability of the electoral process."

In his application to the highest court on the land, Wetang’ula had argued that the high court did not have jurisdiction to hear and determine the petition that had been filed.

He added that the court of appeal had also erred in law in holding that allegations of commission of electoral offence against a respondent in an election petition was sufficient notice to prove charges.

The senator had also argued that the appellate court had erred in holding that he had given Sh260,000 to pastors and bishops who were assembled at Kanduyi.

Wetang’ula added that the court of appeal had ignored glaring contradictions in the evidence adduced by witnesses in respect of bribery and treating of voters allegations.

The senator had Wetang’ula moved to the Supreme Court seeking to have the findings of the appeal court that he had been involved in bribery and treating of voters set aside.

"The judgment and decree of the high court rendered in Bungoma high court be set aside in its entirely," the petition had read in part.

In its verdict the Supreme Court said that it had been able to clarify the distinction between the trial of an election dispute on one hand and the trial of an ordinary criminal charge.

"The court has demarcated the terms of mandate falling upon judicial process and on other spheres of state machinery the IEBC and the Director of Public Prosecution as regards the disqualification of a candidate from participating in an election," the verdict read in part.

They noted that election proceedings are unique as they are neither civil nor criminal and the election court is mandated to hear and determine whether an election offence was committed without necessarily having to apply the prescribed constitutional safeguards for criminal trial.

The Supreme Court quashed the Court Of Appeal’s order of disqualification of Wetang’ula from elections.

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