Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lawyers steal election petition show

Billy Mutai | NATION Lawyer Kethi Kilonzo for Africog with her father Mutula Kilonzo (left) and Ababu Namwamba for Cord during a break at Supreme Court.

Billy Mutai | NATION Lawyer Kethi Kilonzo for Africog with her father Mutula Kilonzo (left) and Ababu Namwamba for Cord during a break at Supreme Court. 

By PAUL JUMA pjuma@ke.nationmedia.com and LUCAS BARASA lbarassa@ke.nationmedia.com

The ongoing legal battle over presidential poll results has thrust into limelight lawyers who were least known to many Kenyans.

From this group, Kethi Kilonzo and Isaac Aluochier stand out.

Soft-spoken and articulate, Ms Kilonzo has captured the attention of viewers of the Supreme Court proceedings.

The daughter of former Education minister and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo represents African Centre for Open Governance (Africog) in the landmark petition. The lobby and Prime Minister Raila Odinga are challenging the declaration of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as President-elect.

Arguing her client’s case for the first time on Wednesday, Ms Kilonzo’s articulation and relaxed mien before judges of the highest court in the land and senior lawyers left many a viewer in awe.

“I dare say the only logical conclusion is to invalidate the results,” she told the judges. “What the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission did was a complete sham and fraud”.

That has been her style and substance — firing her evidence and concluding with a punch. Even before she had left the floor, her name had become a sensation on social media.

Ms Kilonzo has been a partner at Kilonzo & Company Advocates for 10 years. His father established the firm in 1975. Other partners are Mr Mutula Kilonzo Junior, her brother, and lawyer Johnson Shijenje. Mr Kilonzo Junior has high regard for his sister.

“My younger sister is disciplined, intelligent, hard-working, responsible, and an excellent partner at the law firm,” he told the Nation on Thursday.

And when we asked Senator Kilonzo what he thought of his daughter, he replied: “God’s gift.”

The Africog petition is Ms Kilonzo’s most significant matter, but she has also prosecuted other high profile cases.

She, for instance, represented retired President Daniel Moi when former Nyayo House detainee Otieno Mac’Onyango sued him for illegal detention. Although the court awarded Mr Mac’Onyango Sh20 million in damages, Ms Kilonzo succeeded in absolving the former Head of State of personal responsibility.

At the East African Court of Justice, she has represented victims of atrocities allegedly committed by Kenyan military in Mount Elgon. The atrocities were committed during the crackdown on Sabaot Land Defence Forces militia.

When Kenyan political parties disagreed over nominations to the East African Legislative Assembly and a suit was filed at the regional court, she was among advocates who were instructed.

Ms Kilonzo holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Nairobi, and according to her firm’s website, she specialises in litigation, legal drafting, legal research, conveyancing and legal critiques.

On his part, Mr Aluochier, who is a voter in Migori County, caught the attention of many due to his eloquent and articulate submission before the six judges.

He was seeking to be enjoined in the case as an interested party but his bid was dismissed by judges, who argued that he did not give practical reasons.

None of the parties in the case was also ready to enjoin him.

Speaking to the Nation after his case was dismissed, Mr Aluochier said although he was not happy with the outcome, there was nothing he could do as the Supreme Court was the highest in the land.

“I am not happy because I was not allowed to participate in the proceedings,” he said. He claimed his case was dismissed without any reason.

He, however, vowed to continue seeking for justice for Kenyans. “Another opportunity will arise,” he said.

Before Thursday’s blow, Mr Aluochier has lost a bid to challenge the candidatures of the then front-runners in the top seat race.

He had argued that Mr Kenyatta, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leader Raila Odinga, Eagle Alliance’s Peter Kenneth and Amani’s Musalia Mudavadi were not fit to vie for the presidency due to integrity issues facing them, and that the electoral body should not accept their nomination.

However, the application was dismissed with the court averring that presidential election was a process that would end after the election.

Despite the loss, he did not give up and had returned with the same application after the March 4 polls but was unable to raise Sh1.5 million required to file the petition.

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