NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 25 – It was a petition filed by Kandara MP Alice Wahome that spurred emotions and raised eyebrows over what could have led her to challenge the nomination of Philomena Mbete Mwilu as Deputy Chief Justice even after she had passed the vetting process by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
In the petition filed before the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, Wahome had accused Mwilu of corruption and interfering with the course of justice in a case she handled way back in 2011.
Committee Deputy Chairperson Priscilla Nyokabi in summary asked Mwilu to respond to allegations that she failed to conclude an election petition case, failed to recuse herself from the case and that she had taken a bribe.
“I have never been bribed, those allegations none of them is true and the basis of this is the FIDA case and the personal hatred the member took against me,” she explained.
Mwilu recalled to the committee members that it was in 2011 when her row with Wahome started after she lost a case in which she was representing the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya.
She explained that she was among three judges handling the election petition in question and after she was asked to recuse herself, she found the allegations made to be odd same reason that former Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga told her to stay on the case.
“I was told I would be impartial because I had worked with the CJ before I became a judge and because I was a friend of the Attorney General. We wrote our judgments and said recusal as we know it the reasons thereof have not been brought out in this application and therefore we start the hearing of this case”.
Despite several attempts to start the case, the committee heard that Wahome and supporters of FIDA filed several interlocutory petitions which delayed the case.
She said she didn’t strike out the case even though she had been requested to do so.
Mwilu recalled a day that Wahome walked out of a witness stand despite her being ready to begin hearing the case.
She said FIDA through Wahome had made it so difficult for her that she even went and begged the former CJ to allow her recuse herself.
“Insults from FIDA were hurting but the CJ refused to remove me.”
When Mwilu appeared before JSC during the vetting of judges and magistrates, Wahome lodged a petition to discredit her as a judge.
“I have carried this pain since 2011. Because from that day, the Hon Alice Wahome picked me for beating up whenever she had a problem and decided that I was the sole reason the petition was lost. We were three judges, the decision was unanimous and I supported that decision.”
“Thereafter, there is nothing I have not gone through whenever the honourable Alice Wahome has come into contact with me,” she added.
She told the members that JSC cleared her after she explained herself and she thought it would be the end of Wahome’s attacks on her.
“I thought I had seen the end of it but I had not. I tell you, honestly, I was depressed when I saw this petition. I thought it was over.”
She also told the committee that it was wrong for Wahome to make the allegations at a public rally yet she knew she could not respond to those allegations.
Mwilu said she was quite shocked to read about it in media and then defending herself against the petition before the committee.
She also dismissed allegations that she had taken a bribe as alleged by Wahome who in the petition said a bribe of Sh3 million had been dropped at her home in Ridgeways.
Mwilu said she has never lived in Ridgeways and does not even own a house in the alleged location.
The Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs will forward a report on Mwilu for Parliament to determine if her name will be forwarded to the President for appointment as the next Deputy Chief Justice.