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Judge scolds lawyers for fighting over KFA case

RIFT VALLEY
By Daniel Chege | December 3rd 2021

High Court Judge Teresia Matheka at Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi in a past case. [Courtesy]

A battle between two lawyers on who should represent the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) in a case challenging the State's takeover of the association has drawn the ire of the judge hearing the matter.

Nakuru High Court Judge Teresia Matheka said the case had been delayed for two years and blamed it on lawyers Gitonga Kariuki and Gatu Magana.

Mr Gitonga was appointed by the national government to represent KFA in the case while Mr Magana was appointed by the association to represent it in a suit filed in 2019 by George Narok and Paul Maina.

The two lawyers are also representing KFA in a case the association has filed challenging the jurisdiction of the High Court in Nakuru to hear the suit by Mr Narok and Mr Maina.

Justice Matheka told Gitonga and Kariuki to stop personalising the case and do the job they were hired for. 

The applicants wanted the court to issue orders reversing a decision by the Ministry of Agriculture to appoint a caretaker committee to oversee the operations of the farmers' association.

At the same time, Narok and Maina wanted the court to determine that KFA is a private company, and not a cooperative.

They also petitioned the court to stop the State and its agencies from interfering in the day-to-day management of the association.

However, according to Justice Matheka, the two lawyers have taken over Narok and Maina’s case and turned it into their own, delaying the main case for over two years.

“The battles between the two of you (Magana and Gitonga) don't help the petitioners’ case because it has never gone forward for two years,” said the judge.

She accused the advocates of "demeaning" the petitioners who are the initiators of the case.

“The petitioners filed the case and included KFA as the interested party. However, the KFA’s representation in the dispute has been the subject in the case since 2019,” said Justice Matheka.

The judge described the wrangles as "sideshows" and vowed not to allow the same in her court.

Justice Matheka said she will first hear an application challenging the court’s jurisdiction to handle the case before handling other applications.

KFA, through Magana, wants to stop the proceedings of the case in the High Court in Nakuru.

In a preliminary objection, KFA acting Secretary David Ole Naeku claims the court has no jurisdiction and should bar itself from proceeding with the case.

Mr Naeku said there exists similar cases in Kapenguria High Court under Judicial Review No 3 of 2019, Kericho High Court under Judicial Review 75 of 2019, and Eldoret Court of Appeal Civil Application E257 of 2020.

“The subject matter and cause of action in the case in Nakuru, Kapenguria, Kericho and Eldoret are the same and this court has no jurisdiction to proceed with the case,” said Naeku.

Justice Matheka directed Narok and Maina to file their response to KFA's application. The case will be mentioned on December 6 for compliance.

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