Kenyans challenging the creation of new electoral boundaries have a chance to take part in the proceedings after the High Court agreed to conduct hearings in the affected regions.
The directive was made by a five-judge bench on a day the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) clashed in court with the Attorney-General’s office over the publication date of a gazette notice creating the new boundaries.
Justices Mohammed Warsame, Ruth Sitati, Pauline Nyamweya, Hellen Omondi and David Majanja ruled that on the completion of suits filed in Nairobi, they would conduct hearings in Mombasa, Nakuru, Kakamega, Garissa and Kisii.
“Each part of the country is important. We will conduct the hearings at county halls. However, any party is at liberty to have their complaints heard in Nairobi,” Justice Warsame said.
Those who filed petitions in the Rift Valley will have their suits heard in Nakuru on June 6 while those in Coast will be heard in Mombasa on June 7. (READ: Will mountain of lawsuits stunt growth?)
The judges will then move to Kakamega for applications filed in Western and then to Kisii before concluding the hearings in Garissa. Petitions from Lower Eastern will be heard with those filed in Nairobi.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga had directed that the cases filed in different regions be consolidated and heard together in Nairobi but lawyers objected, claiming they wanted local people to take part.
Those from Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisii and Bungoma argued that they were not party to the agreement reached in Nairobi for the cases to be heard in one place.
The judges accepted their request despite a plea from the IEBC that it had similar responses to all the complaints.
The hearing was marked by sharp differences between the AG and IEBC when the electoral team sought the striking out of petitions filed after the expiry of the date for filing the cases.
According to the Electoral Act, parties aggrieved by the new boundaries had 30 days to file legal suits.
Asking the court to dismiss 11 suits filed on April 10, IEBC lawyer Anthony Lubullelah said the final report on the new boundaries was published on March 6 and since April 7 was not a public holiday, this was the last day.
However, the AG, through State counsel Anthony Ombwayo, objected, arguing the gazette notice was published on March 9, thus the deadline should have been April 10.
“The document that should be relied on in determining the last date is the notice published on March 9. It is therefore the AG’s view that it is not right to dismiss cases filed on April 10,” Mr Ombwayo said.
His submissions drew a sharp response from Mr Lubullelah, who accused the AG of dishonesty.
He said the contents of the special gazette issue published by the government was not the disputed issue but the notice published by the IEBC on March 6.
Lawyers representing parties in the cases also objected to their striking out, saying the IEBC was an institutional body and should serve the interests of Kenyans first without placing legal hurdles. The judges will make a ruling on the IEBC objection on Wednesday.