Weathering against the storm in Laikipia

Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi outside the Court of Appeal following the dismissal of the petition that challenged his election, July 31, 2018. /CAROLE MAINA
Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi outside the Court of Appeal following the dismissal of the petition that challenged his election, July 31, 2018. /CAROLE MAINA

Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi on Friday won for the third time when he survived a protracted election petition at the Supreme Court.

The apex court upheld his win and rejected his rival’s appeal.

Supreme Court judges, in a ruling read by Smokin Wanjala, said the appeal simply rehashed the case voter Sammy Waity, the petitioner, lost at the Court of Appeal, so there was no reason to rule in his favour.

“On this basis and that of the principles we have set out. It goes without saying that both the High Court and the Court of Appeal were correct in declining to hear the issue of nomination,” he said.

Muriithi weathered political supremacy battles to clinch Laikipia governor seat as an independent candidate in the August 8 General Election.

Muriithi, former President Mwai Kibaki’s nephew, and Mohammed Kuti (Isiolo) are Kenya’s only governors who survived dominance of NASA and Jubilee political outfits and the power of incumbency in their regions to become county bosses.

He is the son of the former President Kibaki’s elder brother, the late Phillip Muriithi Kibaki.

The former governor, Joshua Irungu, however petitioned against his win. But political turbulence facing the former Industrialisation assistant minister did not start with the court battles that ended up at the Supreme Court.

Muriithi beat

Irungu by 1,876 votes. The then Devolution CS Mwangi Kiunjuri had openly backed Irungu, after he was urged by President Uhuru Kenyatta to quit the race and be part of his government.

During the Jubilee party nominations, he contested Irungu as the winner and the party leadership ruled in his favour. However, Irungu moved to the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal, which handed him back the ticket.

Muriithi and his running mate John Mwaniki opted to run as independent candidates. Irungu reported Muriithi to the IEBC Code of Conduct Enforcement Committee, accusing him of using President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto’s photos on his campaign materials.

The committee fined Muriithi Sh500,000

and ordered him to remove all his campaign materials containing the images. The duo opened a mobile money transfer service account where their s upporters raised the fine.

After assuming power, Waity from Nanyuki had moved to the High Court, challenging his victory.

Dismissing the petition, High Court judge Mary Kasango said at the time that most of the petitioner’s allegations could not be proven.

“In the final analysis, I find that the election complied with the law and the provisions of the Constitution,” Kasango said.

Waity then moved to the country’s second highest court – Court of Appeal – which also endorsed Muriithi’s victory.

Judges Asike Makhandia, Fatuma Sichale and Sankale ole Kantai dismissed claims Muriithi should not have been cleared to contest, having moved from the Jubilee Party to independent days to the election.

The judges argued Waity should have pursued the issue of nominations using dispute resolution mechanisms – through either an appeal or a judicial review application at the High Court.

Muriithi’s supporters have often questioned on the political forces that have been engineering Waity to continuously pursue the petition to the topmost court.

“It would be fair if the petition was being catapulted from one court to the other by a candidate who lost in the election contest. But this petitioner who happens to be a resident seems to be propelled by a very powerful force in the political arena,” one of Muriithi’s confidants told Siasa.

While serving as Industrialisation assistant minister and contesting for Laikipia’s governor seat, Muriithi defied TNA party which was then spearheaded by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.

He opted to contest via the then Musalia Mudavadi-led UDF party against Irungu’s TNA and Mwangi Kiunjuri’s GNU but was trounced.

Being among the founder members of UDF, Muriithi then urged the residents to vote independently and “cease being driven by political parties’ wave”.

Again in 2016, Muriithi , one of the founder members of PNU, was among leaders who trashed plans to merge it with Jubilee, warning that the move would result to voter apathy to the disadvantage of Uhuru.

“In the current scheme of things and with change of circumstances, you need stiff competition at county levels to trigger high voter turn-out. The last thing one should think of is to kill parties much less those in Jubilee strong-holds,” he said.