, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 29 – Principal Administrative Secretary in the Office of the President Kennedy Kihara on Sunday went on record to confirm that Justice (rtd) Jonathan Havelock has indeed replaced Sharad Rao as Chairman of the tribunal formed to ascertain Philip Tunoi’s suitability as Supreme Court Justice.
Speaking on KTN Sunday night, Kihara was however unable to confirm if Rao, Chairman of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, would continue to serve as a member of the tribunal or had been ejected altogether.
Rao who had on Friday told Capital FM News that he was unaware of any such changes, said he served at the pleasure of the President and would therefore not contest either his replacement as Chairman or removal from the tribunal.
“I’ve just seen reports of my removal as Chairman on the news,” he said.
He, however, differed with the lawyers who challenged his appointment as Chairman on account of his age and the fact that he has never served as a judge.
“The relevant provision of the Constitution as to who qualifies to be Chair has nothing to do with age; only competence and I’m competent,” Rao defended.
Article 168(5)(b)(i) of the Constitution on the removal of a judge states that the President shall appoint to the tribunal:
“A chairperson and three other members from among persons who hold or have held office as a judge of a superior court, or who are qualified to be appointed as such.”
Lawyers such as Ahmednasir Abdullahi and Gitobu Imanyara argued that Rao did not meet said requirements and Kihara did not elaborate on whether that was the reason they replaced him.
When reached for comment, Attorney General Githu Muigai and Solicitor General Njee Muturi were non-committal and referred any and all queries to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Senior Constitutional and Legislative Advisor Abdikadir Mohamed who was unresponsive.
The change of chairperson comes on the heels of, “flip-flopping,” on whether President Kenyatta would appoint a tribunal in the first place; which led a section of legislators to question the competency of the President’s legal advisors.
The Havelock chaired tribunal is charged with investigating one Geoffrey Kiplagat’s claim that Tunoi received a Sh200 million bribe from Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero to deliver a favourable verdict in the election petition that pitted him against now Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu.
Other persons appointed to the tribunal are: Justice Roselyne Korir, Judith Abrahams Guserwa, James Kaberere Gacoka, Abdirashid Abdullahi Hussein and George Munji Wakukha.