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Why Ruto wants Chief Justice Koome out of 2022 polls team

POLITICS
By Jacob Ng'etich and Edward Kosut | November 25th 2021

From left to right: Chief Justice Martha Koome, Interior CS Dr. Fred Matiangi and his ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru addressing a press conference. [Samson Wire, Standard].

Deputy President William Ruto's party wants Chief Justice Martha Koome to withdraw from a committee tasked with overseeing election preparations.  

The United Democratic Party (UDA) says Koome's role as the President of the Supreme Court creates a clear case of conflict of interest since the Chief Justice is constitutionally required to act as an arbiter in election petitions.

Chief Justice Koome sits in the Technical Working Committee For Election Preparedness. 

In a letter copied to Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati, chairperson of the African Union Commission and US embassy, UDA told Koome to 'henceforth stop, abandon, desist, refrain and cease participating in the activities of the committee."

As UDA Secretary General Veronica Maina was dispatching the letter yesterday, Ruto and his allies were addressing rallies in Nandi and Uasin Gishu counties. 

The party said Koome's involvement in the committee was likely to interfere with and threaten free and fair elections in 2022.

"The committee draws its membership from various government agencies and it is indeed a multi-sectoral forum. We opine that your involvement in the consultative meetings is a clear violation of the Constitution, the Judicial Service Act, 2011, the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012, the Public Officer Ethics Act, 2003, the Bangalore Principles and the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers," read the letter.

On Tuesday, Koome chaired the committee alongside Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, his ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru and Attorney General Kihara Kariuki. 

The letter, also copied to Delegation of the European Union, United Nations, British High Commissioner and all media houses, noted that it was the sole responsibility of IEBC to conduct, manage and prepare for elections.

It added that the Judiciary had no role whatsoever save for determining disputes that may arise after the election.   

"We write to you to lodge a formal complaint against your continued involvement as the Chief Justice and chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission in the workings of the technical working committee tasked and mandated with ensuring election preparedness," said Ms Maina. 

 "Participating ..in the Committee,  is also tantamount to participating in elections matters and in this case you are wearing the hat of those that are required to ensure that all is set for elections in this case being the IEBC and thereafter you shall be expected to wear the hat of a judge and deliberate and determine any ensuing election disputes. The interchange of the two hats cannot constitutionally be tenable," said Ms Maina 

 She added; "We are of the view that impartiality is not just real but is also a matter of perception and your participation in planning for the 2022 general elections may create a perception of bias and partiality," Ms Maina said.

The SG noted that Koome's involvement in planning for the 2022 elections shall also corrode and negate the Code of Conduct when she will be called upon to determine disputes on an election, that she  participated in preparing for. 

Ms Maina said that borrowing from history, none of the former Chief Justices in particular former Chief Justice David Maraga and Willy Mutunga never participated in planning for elections. 

"From the foregoing, it is our humble submission that you have no role whatsoever in election planning and your participation is similar to allowing a judge to prepare submissions for a client in readiness for a trial only for the same judge to sit, hear and determine the case," said Ms Maina. 

She added; "Your participation in election planning is not founded in law and is hence unconstitutional, illegal and blatantly in breach of any code of known conduct or standard for judicial officers. Secondly, your continued participation in election planning shall negate free and fair elections come 2022 as you have already created a perception of partiality and the likelihood of conflict of interest as an arbiter is more than certain."

While addressing residents in Nandi and Uasin Gishu counties Ruto and his allies warned Ms Koome against participating in the preparations for 2022 General Election technical team.

The leaders, speaking in Kapsabet, in Nandi County had accompanied Ruto in a visit to Nandi and Uasin Gishu counties.

Ruto while addressing residents, said public officers and independent institutions should keep off politics and discharge their mandates in accordance to the law.

"Any public officer or independent institution should play its role responsibly according to the Constitution. Kenyans should be given an opportunity to exercise their democratic rights and elect leaders they want and not what they maybe preferred to," Ruto said.

He said independent institutions should steer clear from political activities and ensure free and fair elections, thus peace prevail before and after elections.

Speaking at a fundraiser event towards completion of Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) plaza, Ruto urged public officers against being misused.

Ruto's comments follow the unveiling of the election preparedness committee which brought together commissioners of the electoral commission, Judiciary, police and other key government agencies.

"We have a huge task of ensuring that the country remain united even after the elections. It's my appeal to everyone holding a public office that they stick to what the law mandates them to do for Kenyans," Ruto cautioned.

Garissa Town MP Aden Duale claimed there is a conspiracy by some state officers to politicise the Judiciary in favour of their preferred candidates.

Duale urged the Chief Justice to shun political machinations orchestrated by political players.

"The Chief Justice has never been involved in the election management since independence. Therefore, Justice Koome should run away from the political assignments given to her. She is expected to lead in the arbitration process in whatever eventualities in the elections," he said.

He added that the Article 88 of the constitution has mandated the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to conduct free and fair election and not the Judiciary.

“Justice Koome cannot wear two hats, that of the election management and the other for judicial role. We are going to submit our displeasure over the process in the next three days to ensure she sticks to her role," said Duale.

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa claimed Ruto's detractors are part of the team set up to oversee the elections, adding that there is a plot to tamper with presidential election outcome.

"What do we expect to be conducted by the said people rather than compromising with the Judiciary system?" posed Ichungwa.

Eleyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Kiminini Didmus Barasa read mischief in the way the state officers are voiced support for ODM party leader, claiming that they are partisan on how they are managing elections in the country.

"We are a peace loving country, and cannot watch how they are laying a trap to ruin the independent institutions. We must stop this from the onset for people to participate in transparent elections," said Murkomen.

Among the political leaders affiliated to his hustler bandwagon in attendance include Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Corneli Serem (Aldai), Julius Meli (Tindiret, and Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills).

Others included Wilson Kogo (Chesumei), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeiyo Marakwet), Vincent Tuwei (Mosop) and Oscar Sudi (Kapseret).

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