Politicians turn to courts to shield image as 2017 elections loom large

By: PAUL OGEMBA

The law courts are increasingly becoming the destination of many politicians keen to protect their image following damning allegations from political enemies as the 2017 General Election beckons.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto, and Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero are among top politicians who have turned the corridors of justice into a battle field to gag their opponents from smear campaigns and character assassinations.

The politicians’ new-found love with the Judiciary shows a shift of tack from the usual political attacks and name calling in public forums aimed at embarrassing and subjecting their opponents to public ridicule.

When High Court Judge Joseph Sergon gagged Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria from linking former Justice Minister Martha Karua with a plot to fix Mr Ruto at the International Criminal Court, it showed that politicians are leaving nothing to chance as far as their image is concerned.

According to Justice Sergon, Ms Karua had made out a strong case to protect her name with high chances of success and which warranted restraining the MP.

“She is apprehensive that Mr Kuria will continue to make similar allegations and has proved that she has a prima facie (based on the first impression) case with high chances of success to warrant granting the temporary restraining orders,” the judge ruled.

COURT’S INTERVENTION

Mr Ruto had also sought the court’s intervention to stop a barrage of attacks from Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) politicians over his alleged involvement in grabbing the controversial Karen land.

The DP wanted senators Johnson Muthama, James Orengo, Boni Khalwale and Elizabeth Ongoro, and Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, stopped from linking him to the scandal.

Cord had claimed the 134-acre land had been grabbed by high ranking personalities in the Jubilee administration and wanted them to record statements with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).

The DP promptly turned to court and claimed that the statements were borne of malice, hatred and political propaganda to expose his reputation to public ridicule.

“I was extremely embarrassed and at great pains to explain to my associates that the stories peddled were a pack of lies and that I had absolutely no involvement in the alleged land grabbing saga in Karen,” swore Mr Ruto.

Mr Odinga is not known to take his political battles to court and has never shied from taking his opponents head-on, especially through veiled proverbs at political rallies.

But when National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale dragged him into the financial woes facing Mumias Sugar Limited, the Cord leader filed a defamation suit in court seeking an order to stop Mr Duale from further making the statements.

DUALE’S ALLEGATIONS

Mr Odinga accused Mr Duale of employing the defamatory words to weaken his agitation against a sugar import deal purportedly signed between Kenya and Uganda when President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the landlocked nation.

Mr Odinga has left it in the hands of the court to determine the level of compensation for the alleged defamation and to restrain Mr Duale from ever associating him with Mumias Sugar Company woes in future.

According to the court documents, the former PM was unhappy with Mr Duale’s allegations that his family owes the troubled sugar firm Sh40 million.

The former PM has also not escaped court action for his outbursts. He was sued by Devolution CS Anne Waiguru for linking her to the loss of Sh791 million at the National Youth Service.

“The defamatory words meant that I use my position in government to engage in immoral activities. They portrayed me as a common thief, an embezzler of public funds, corrupt in the extreme and a flagrant law breaker who is not fit to hold a public office,” swore Ms Waiguru.

Ms Waiguru added that the former PM did not make any attempt to verify the false claims and want him stopped from the smear campaign.

The financial woes dogging Mumias Sugar also saw Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero drag Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale to court, with a judge gagging Dr Khalwale from further linking Dr Kidero to the financial downfall of the company.

The Kakamega senator had alleged that the Nairobi governor presided over a financial scandal during his tenure as managing director of the once giant sugar miller.

FAKE ALLEGATIONS

According to Dr Kidero, the allegations were intended to create enmity between him and the people he serves, and the investors in Mumias Sugar Ltd whom he served with unmatched success for nine years.

“Dr Khalwale’s motives were actuated by malice and calculated to portray me as corrupt. He deliberately failed to qualify the false allegations.

During my tenure, the company was the leading sugar producer in Kenya, a pioneer of branding, a market leader, innovator and trend setter in the sugar industry,” swore Kidero.

In the fight to protect her integrity, Ms Karua argued that statements by Mr Kuria had injured her reputation by implying that she was not a diligent and trustworthy public servant, and that she was involved in bribing people to testify against Mr Ruto.

Mr Kuria had claimed to have been part of a meeting with Ms Karua that came up with fake allegations and witnesses to influence investigations and the subsequent trial of Mr Ruto at the ICC.

But according to the Narc-K leader, the MP had portrayed her as a corrupt individual by alleging that they met together with others at Club Galileo in Westlands and devised the scheme to recruit witnesses against Mr Ruto.

OUT OF COURT SETTLEMENT

Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o also sued Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa for allegedly linking him to a scheme to fix people at the ICC.

However, the two negotiated and agreed to settle the matter out of court, after which the case was withdrawn.

Prof Nyong’o had claimed that during a public rally held at Uhuru Park grounds in Nairobi in April, 2011, Mr Wamalwa made numerous references to a letter that had allegedly been authored by the senator.

The letter was said to have been authored by Prof Nyong’o in his capacity as the secretary-general of ODM and addressed to the office of the ICC prosecutor and made to the attention of the then chief prosecutor, Mr Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

“Having at no time authored or given instructions for the drawing of the letter, I was shocked and distraught that the said letter was alleged to have originated from me, in my capacity as secretary-general ODM,” Prof Nyong’o had said in his court papers.