Court dismisses Uhuru, Ruto eligibility case

Judges said that since Kenya's election commission had already passed Kenyatta and Ruto as fit to stand for election, any ruling "would end up usurping" the powers of the commission/FILE

Judges said that since Kenya’s election commission had already passed Kenyatta and Ruto as fit to stand for election, any ruling “would end up usurping” the powers of the commission/FILE

NAIROBI, Feb 15 – The High Court on Friday dismissed an integrity case against Jubilee presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto, clearing the way for them to seek office in next month’s general election.

During the long awaited ruling at the Milimani Law Courts, the judges explained that the two had already been cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which is mandated to review and clear the eligibility of people seeking elective positions.

The judges further ruled that questioning their integrity required a proper inquiry which was not the mandate of the court, which relies on evidence provided.

“Institutions like the IEBC and the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission are bestowed with necessary power to conduct, inquire and take disciplinary action. The court should not descend into the arena of inquiry… its proper rule is to ensure the inquiry is undertaken in the standards acceptable in the Constitution,” the judges explained.

Presiding Judge Msagha Mbogholi further said the case challenging the eligibility of the two was not within the jurisdiction of the court as disputes on elections and nomination of presidential candidates should be directed to the Supreme Court.

According to the five-judge bench, the petitioners in the case should also have gone to the IEBC to raise complaints within the timelines provided for resolving disputes related to the nominations of the two.

Mbogholi ruled that stopping the two from seeking elective positions would deny them their democratic right which is guarded by the Constitution.

The judges further said it was up to Kenyans to elect leaders of their choice, a responsibility that should not be blocked.

“The Constitution of Kenya places all the sovereign power on the people of Kenya which shall be exercised only in accordance with the Constitution. Limiting the people’s rights would be inimical to the exercise of democratic right and freedom of its members,” he asserted.

The ruling followed Thursday’s status conference at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, in which Kenyatta and Ruto participated via video link from Nairobi.

During Friday’s landmark ruling, Justice Mbogholi said the ICC cases against the two could not be a reason to stop them from vying in elections since no local or international trial had convicted them to imprisonment for more than six months.

“It has neither been alleged nor has any evidence been placed before us (that) the respondents have been subjected to any trial in any local court or indeed the ICC that has led to imprisonment for more than six months,” he ruled.

He made it clear that although the ICC had committed their cases to trial, presumption of innocence will continue to prevail until the conclusion of the case.

“The confirmation of charges at the ICC may have formed the basis for commencement of the trial against the respondents. The end result however cannot be presumed, neither is there sufficient evidence that a conviction may be arrived at,” he explained.

The integrity suit was filed by four NGOs which had wanted the High Court to rule if the two can still vie for high office, with crimes against humanity charges pending in The Hague.

JUDIE KABERIA

JUDIE KABERIA

Judie, a Special Projects Reporter started practicing journalism in 2003. She has worked in Kenya and Germany. Judie has scooped awards in Reproductive Health, Population, Gender and Development. She has participated in international conferences in Germany, Switzerland and Netherlands. Judie has written a booklet, 'Justice and Peace in the Kenyan Eye'. She has a soft spot for human rights, crime, peace and justice stories. She has a Master's Degree in New Media, Governance and Democracy, University of Leicester (U.K).