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Drama in Appeal Court as case against election is withdrawn

By Kamau Muthoni | October 20th 2017
Attorney General Githu Muigai in court on Thursday. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

An appeal against the decision to allow more presidential candidates in next week's repeat election was withdrawn on Thursday after dramatic court proceedings

Claims of bribery and a last-minute change of lawyers representing Abraham Kiplagat, who had appealed the High Court decision that opened the door for five other presidential candidates for the October 26 poll, rocked the hearing at the Court of Appeal.

The case was an appeal against a judgement that allowed Thirdway Alliance candidate Ekuru Aukot's name to be included on the ballot for the October 26 poll.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) cited the ruling to open the doors to four other presidential candidates.

It emerged that Mr Kiplagat on Wednesday dropped lawyer Nelson Havi and hired two lawyers, Anthony Gitonga and Evans Lagat, with instructions to withdraw the appeal.

But yesterday, Havi told justices Alnasir Visram, Wanjiru Karanja, and Martha Koome that he was still representing Kiplagat. He sensationally claimed that his client was offered Sh7 million to withdraw the case and that the new lawyers were hired by the Jubilee Party.

According to the lawyer, the ruling coalition approached his client on Wednesday with two offers - money or his life.

“My client called and told me he had been approached by Jubilee. He also told me his life was in danger if he does not withdraw,” Havi claimed.

However, lawyer Gitonga told the court that Havi had refused to be served with a notice indicating that his services were no longer required.

Lawyer Tom Macharia, who was representing President Uhuru Kenyatta in the case, told the court that Havi’s claims were reckless.

"This is a buffoonery comment to tell the court that my client has bribed his client,” charged Macharia.

According to Macharia, the lawyer had first posted the allegations on Twitter, but never filed any papers in court to show that Kiplagat was bribed or threatened into picking new lawyers. He submitted that Havi's plan was to mud-sling the President to cause political chaos.

Lawyer Jackson Awele, for the National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential flag bearer Raila Odinga, told the court that although the petitioner had opted to pick new lawyers, the case should proceed to hearing.

The judges inquired whether Kiplagat was in court to settle the issue of representation. He was not present. According to Gitonga, Kiplagat had a sick child in hospital and could not make it to court.

Termination letter

The judges dismissed Havi, noting that there was a letter terminating his services.

Gitonga told the court that his client wanted the case withdrawn. The application was supported by all parties, except Raila’s lawyer, who told the court the case was a matter of public interest.

“We would be hesitant to support the withdrawal,” lawyer Awele submitted.

Attorney General Githu Muigai turned the heat on Havi, saying he was in a team of lawyers who had been filing numerous cases to block the October 26 presidential elections. He told the court that IEBC was battling 13 cases.

“All these were proffered for a collateral purpose to ensure there will be no election,” he claimed.

The judges allowed the case to be withdrawn and ordered Kiplagat to pay the costs.

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