, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 30 – Housing Assistant Minister Bishop Margaret Wanjiru suffered a major political blow on Friday when the High Court nullified her election as Member of Parliament for Starehe constituency.
The petition had been filed by former area member of Parliament Maina Kamanda who had argued that he defeated Ms Wanjiru in the 2007 general Election.
Mr Kamanda had wanted the court to nullify the election and declare him winner, by replacing his name with that of Bishop Wanjiru.
In his 41-page ruling at the Milimani Commercial Courts, Justice Kihara Kariuki declared that “Wanjiru was not validly elected as the Member of Parliament for the Starehe constituency.”
“I therefore, declare her election as such to be null and void.”
Mr Kamanda and Bishop Wanjiru were present during the court session that took more than three hours.
The Judge said the court had established beyond any reasonable doubt that the election was full of malpractices and as such could not yield legitimate results.
He however, declined to declare Mr Kamanda winner of the Starehe seat because of the numerous flaws cited in the entire electoral process.
“Besides, he [Kamanda] himself admits in his petition and in evidence that the parliamentary election in the Starehe constituency was flawed,” he ruled.
“I must therefore, add that a flawed election cannot produce a legitimate result on which the petitioner can rely to claim the crown,” Justice Kariuki said and ordered the then Returning Officer Manasseh Mugasia and the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya [ECK] to pay Mr Kamanda 50 percent of the suit cost.
Lawyer Kioko Kilukumi represented Mr Kamanda in court while Bishop Wanjiru was represented by lawyer Chacha Odera.
A recount of the votes conducted on the orders of the court showed that Mr Kamanda had garnered 49,310 votes against Bishop Wanjiru’s 34,874. There were 1,106 disputed votes while 1,125 were rejected or were spoilt out of the 92,757 votes cast.
Among the flaws discovered during the re-count include the fact that there were 130 ballot boxes without polling day forms.
The court also discovered that there were 167 boxes which did not have packets of marked register while 68 ballot boxes had no Form 16A among other irregularities.
“This finding is consistent with the results of the scrutiny and recount which revealed serious manipulation with the ballot papers and other election materials but it is impossible to ascertain who interfered with the election materials and when,” the Judge ruled.
He said in the ruling that there was no evidence to prove allegations that Bishop Wanjiru and/or her agents did commit acts of violence, intimidation or undue influence during the polls as argued by Mr Kamanda.
Jubilant supporters of Mr Kamanda joined him in the celebration outside the courts and even escorted him to Uhuru Park in a convoy of more than ten vehicles. They waved twigs and placards saying “Kamanda ni Yes” “Starehe ni Kamanda” “Haki Yetu”.
“God has finally answered our prayers, I knew my votes were stolen but today justice has prevailed and the correct verdict has been delivered,” Mr Kamanda told his supporters at a hurriedly convened rally at Uhuru Park where hundreds of youths and women donned green t-shirts and placards supporting the proposed Constitution.
“People must be told that we the people of Starehe are ready for a by-election, we shall win by a big margin, and I urge all of you to support me so that we can show her [Bishop] Wanjiru that we are the winners,” he added.
Bishop Wanjiru did not speak to journalists at the courts and instead dashed to her chauffeur-driven four wheel drive vehicle which sped off to her office at the Ministry of Housing.
She later called journalists for a press conference where she humbly accepted the judgment as “balanced.”
“The judgment today was balanced in that the judge has acquitted me. The petitioner had tried to portray me as somebody who operated with bribery or I stole, he really tried to portray me as a wicked person but he has been proved wrong,” she said.
And added that “what the petitioner was trying to do is to lock me out of the future elections because of electoral offences, the petitioner was fearing a by-election and so what he wanted was to be announced the winner.”
Bishop Wanjiru becomes the seventh legislator to lose a parliamentary seat through an election petition after their challengers succeeded in the High Court.
The others include former Trade Assistant Minister Omingo Magara of South Mugirango, George Thuo of Juja, Dick Wathika of Makadara and Joel Onyancha of Bomachoge.
Others are Abdirahman Ali Hassan (Wajir South) and former Transport Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere (Matuga).
Mr Mwakwere has since reclaimed his seat in a by-election.