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Mutunga to rule on Wambora fate

17 June 2014, 18:59 William Korir

Nairobi - Chief Justice Willy Mutunga will now decide on whether a bench or a single judge will hear and determine Embu Governor Martin Wambora’s case on his impeachment.

High Court judge George Odunga yesterday ruled that the CJ will now make the decision following Wambora’s fresh demand of a bench comprising an uneven number of judges for a fair hearing of his second case aimed at permanently quashing his impeachment.

The case has been put together with another one filed by 35 Embu voters seeking the same and had prompted Principal Judge Richard Mwongo to issue a temporary stop to the swearing in of deputy governor Dorothy Nditi or the making of any plans to replace Mr Wambora until the case is fully heard ad determined.

“Accordingly I direct that this case be transferred to the Chief Justice forthwith to consider constitution of a bench or whether a single judge will hear these cases,” ruled Justice Odunga.

The judge also directed that the parties to the suits should also await further directions regarding the case from Dr Mutunga.

Last week, Mr Wambora’s and the voters’ lawyers Francis Nyamu and Ndegwa Njiru told Justice Odunga that the case is weighty and needs to be determined by more than one judge.

However the judge categorically declined to heed to their request and said he would make a decision yesterday as requested.

Although Mr Nyamu had explained that what the court needs to decide on is whether an impeachment process is a political process that conflicts the county government Act and the constitution with biasness by the Senate, the judge demanded for a further explanation on how weighty the case is to warrant a bench.

And he said that certain changes had been made in the case therefore it is not as it was before judge Richard Mwongo who was presiding over the case and had allowed them to make the changes.

“We had not amended the case when it was before Mwongo, some occurrences had not happened or were not captured if they did happen; there was no limitation on what was to be included on the changes,” said Mr Nyamu.

Mr Njiru said that public participation, freedom of expression, an evaluation of the voters’ democratic right as well as interfering with separation of powers are issues raised in the case and importantly warrant a bench not a single judge.

“When this matter came to court, the Senate committee was not set up, it was formed and then went ahead to investigate Wambora for the first and second time. Circumstances have changed and this would be a valid reason as to why several judges should hear this matter. We need an understanding on whether an impeachment process is an exclusive affair for MCA’s and the Senate,” said Mr Ndegwa.

Whilst the Embu County Assembly opposed the request, Mr Ndegwa added that when the case was before Justice Mwongo the case had not been amended and hence the changed issues could not be addressed then.

On May 15, Wambora first demanded for a set bench of judges appointed by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga but Justice Mwongo had told him that this would not be that easy.

Justice Odunga was also quick to point out that judge Mwongo had ordered that a hearing should strictly proceed  and await a final ruling and that no more time should be given to parties of the suit for delay purposes.

But the hearing did not go on as planned following the fresh demands.

At the same time, 12 residents from Embu also filed a suit which was transferred to Kerugoya seeking the removal of Embu Speaker Justus Kariuki Mate claiming that he has several pending issues that touch on his integrity.

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