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February 17, 2019

Wrangles rock LSK as splinter group registers new society

Law Society of Kenya chairman Allen Gichuhi and Chief Justice David Maraga during the LSK Annual Conference in Kwale, August 9, 2018. /SUCHE CHARI
Law Society of Kenya chairman Allen Gichuhi and Chief Justice David Maraga during the LSK Annual Conference in Kwale, August 9, 2018. /SUCHE CHARI

A bitter division has rocked the Law Society of Kenya, with one faction accusing president Allen Gichuhi of poor leadership.

Barely a year after he took the oath of office, Gichuhi has fallen out with some council members.

The members have accused him of constantly frustrating and silencing dissenting voices. The splinter group has registered a new group, Chama cha Mawakili, to checkmate the LSK.

Efforts to get Gichuki’s comment were unsuccessful. He did not return calls.

Lawyer Sylvester Mbithi, a member of LSK Nairobi branch, registered the new organisation at the Registrar of Societies offices in Sheria House last December.

“We wanted to associate freely as stated in the Constitution. We registered the organisation because of the frustrations with the current LSK leadership. We have already opened a black book registering members from across the country,” Mbithi said.

He said Gichuhi has been working with some members to influence the amendment of the LSK Act to allow him to run for another term or position, or have his cronies take over from him and fill other key positions in the next election.

Sources at Sheria House have intimated that Attorney General Paul Kihara has urged the proponents of the new agency to change its name, saying Chama cha Mawakili is a direct translation of the LSK in Kiswahili.

But Mbithi said they have rejected the AG’s argument. In law, the translation makes the name different from the LSK.

The Star has learnt that the ongoing case pitting the Kenya Revenue Authority and senior counsel Tom Ojienda has widened the cracks in the LSK.

Correspondences in the Star’s possession show the depth of the crisis. The President and some members made bitter exchanges over the appointment of lawyer Paul Muite as the society’s lead counsel in the case. Muite and lawyer Olando Olembo represented the LSK.

In the documents, some members argue that the council did not sanction the appointment of Muite and his court submissions.

Nairobi representative Boniface Akusala and council member Herine Kabita are among officials who have strongly differed with Gichuhi.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal overruled last year’s High Court ruling that directed the taxman to issue Ojienda with a tax compliance certificate.

The lawyer sought orders after KRA declined to issue him with the document to allow him to take part in the election of LSK male representative to the Judicial Service Commission.

On Thursday, Kabita wrote a protest letter to the LSK chief executive over the appointment of Muite, demanding that the society file an urgent application in court to review or set aside the Court of Appeal’s ruling before considering Ojienda’s case.

“The position taken by Paul Muite is prejudicial to our membership and does not constitute the instructions of/or the official position of the Law Society of Kenya,” the letter reads.

In court, Muite, on Gichuhi’s instructions, chose to adopt a neutral position and argued that the fight was between Ojienda and KRA.

The other council members alleged that Gichuhi is clandestinely fighting Ojienda.

On February 5, Boniface Akusala, a member of the council, filed an application in court seeking to suspend the High Court ruling that ordered KRA to issue Ojienda with the certificate. He argued that the council did not appoint Muite, who represented the LSK.

The application provoked Gichuhi, who wrote to Akusala the same day, demanding to know why he made the application. Gichuhi said Muite and lawyer Stephen Mwenesi had been appointed to represent the council. He asked Akusala to withdraw the application.

Akusala declined.

“It is factual that I, on behalf of the LSK, filed an application seeking to stay the ruling in this matter because the position of LSK was not presented to the court. The submission that cannibalise our own members as presented in Court was not what the council decided when we issued initial instructions,” he replied in a letter.

He went ahead to attack Gichuhi, saying the council had been plunged into “anarchy under your ‘able’ leadership”.

“You unilaterally decide to change council meeting dates and time and sabotage committees. The latest casualty was the staff and finance committee meeting, which you usurped and even drew allowances out of it, yet you are an ex-officio member,” Akusala said.

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