NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 20 – The President of Kenya’s Supreme Court, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, has warned parties involved in presidential petitions against discussing the cases outside of the court.
During the mention of the cases on Wednesday morning, Mutunga directed advocates representing the parties to advise their clients on the upshot of breaching the directive.
“The court is now fully seized of the petitions challenging the presidential elections. Towards this end, petitioners, their agents and supporters or advisors are directed to desist from prosecuting the merits of their case from any other forum other than this court,” Justice Mutunga said.
“It is the responsibility of the advocates to advise their clients in these cases about the consequences of conduct or statement that can undermine the authority of this court.”
He also called on other Kenyans, including the media and bloggers to refrain from irresponsible utterances likely to affect the progression and outcome of the cases.
Mutunga, who confirmed that the Supreme Court had received three petitions, said the court was ready to hear and determine the cases.
In recognition of the massive interest and anxiety across and outside the country, the Chief Justice pledged that the court would be impartial and make its decision guided by the Constitution and “in the interest of justice.”
“Three petitions challenging the validity of the just concluded presidential election have been filed. The petitions have, not surprisingly, elicited immense public interest and generated endless media coverage on commentary. The court is ready and prepared to hear and determine the petitions,” he asserted.
On Tuesday, outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta were involved in an exchange over the matter, with Odinga insisting that he would not stop talking about the matter.
Odinga who had on Monday claimed that he won the March 4 election by 5.7 million votes against Kenyatta’s 4.7 million votes said the case was of political in nature and that he was free to comment on it.
“My brother Uhuru Kenyatta has challenged me not to politicise the petition but of course I am not politicising the case because we are talking about a political office that is under dispute,” the PM said.
Speaking after touring Kenya Ports Authority facilities in Mombasa earlier on Tuesday, Kenyatta had said the Prime Minister’s remarks on the issue were ill-timed because he has already filed a case in court.
“People need to respect courts and stop talking on issues which are before courts,” said Kenyatta.
The CJ said that a checklist of all documents and relevant matter to the petitions will be prepared and issued to the parties who in turn are required to file their responses by Saturday.
A pre-trial conference for the petition challenging the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as president is set to be held on Monday next week where other issues pertinent to the petition are expected to be addressed.
Following concerns by lawyer Haron Ndubi representing the African Centre for Open Governance (AFRICOG), about the limited space in the courtroom, the CJ confirmed that the bench was in consultation with the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary to address the concerns.
He said that the decision to find a more spacious room for the hearings will be arrived at following consideration of factors such as security and the live broadcast of events in the courtroom.
Petitions against the presidential election have been filed by the PM Odinga and AFRICOG, while a third, seeking an interpretation on the validity of rejected votes in determining the final tally has been filed by voters Dennis Itumbi, Moses Kuria and Florence Sergon.