NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 31 – Former Kisumu Town East Member of Parliament Gor Sungu has been ordered by the Appeal Court to pay Nairobi lawyer George Oraro Sh9 million for defaming him during a parliamentary inquiry into Dr Robert Ouko’s death.
The Court of Appeal composed of John Mwera, William Ouko and Patrick Kiage found that the Sh3 million in general damages that High Court judge Kalpana Rawal awarded in 2011 was not commensurate to the damage Oraro’s reputation suffered when Sungu implicated him in Ouko’s death. Rawal is now the Deputy Chief Justice.
“In this matter we are minded to increase the award of Sh3 million to Sh5 million. Oraro was and still is definitely an outstanding advocate of the Bar in Kenya,” they adjudged.
They went on to award Oraro a further Sh4 million in aggravated damages after finding that Sungu’s defamatory remarks were made with malicious intent.
“The appellant made the defamatory statements with malicious intent and persisted in them, even as the suit coursed its way through the High Court without so much as an apology,” their judgement reads.
The Court of Appeal however overturned Rawal’s order that Sungu make a formal apology to Oraro on the grounds that it was not on appeal as it had not been part of his prayers when the case came before Rawal.
The court did however grant Oraro’s prayer for a permanent injunction against Sungu repeating the defamatory remarks that implicated him in Ouko’s death.
“The respondent still insists on it even after about 10 years following the event,” the bench explained.
In addition to the Sh9 million payment to Oraro, Sungu was also ordered to meet the costs of the appeal he filed.
Ironically Sungu had appealed Rawal’s judgement on the grounds that her Sh3 million award to Oraro was too high and that he could not be held liable for statements he made within the precincts of Parliament.
Rawal however found that making defamatory statements in Parliament’s car park to journalists and while not conducting the business of the House or a committee did not qualify one for parliamentary immunity.
While chairing a Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry into the death of Ouko in 2004, Sungu made a statement to the effect that he had eye witnesses who could link Oraro to Ouko’s death – an accusation Oraro found particularly offensive as he was Ouko’s friend and lawyer.