Industrial court quashes sacking of officers in Uhuru motorcade drama

Friday February 17 2017

Constable Joel Atuti and Corporal Barnaba Rutto

Constable Joel Atuti and Corporal Barnaba Rutto were fired for allegedly blocking President Uhuru Kenyatta’s motorcade while allegedly taking a bribe last year. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By GALGALO BOCHA
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A court on Friday revoked the sacking of two traffic police officers accused of blocking President Uhuru Kenyatta’s motorcade in Mombasa while they were taking a bribe from a matatu driver last year.

Justice James Rika of the Employment and Labour Relations Court quashed the findings of the disciplinary Orderly Room proceedings against the two officers, ruling that it was not properly constituted.

In his ruling, Justice Rika said Corporal Barnaba Kimeli and Constable Joel Atuti appeared separately before two senior police officers instead of a disciplinary committee.

The judge further ruled that the proceedings against Mr Kimeli and Mr Atuti took place while they were in custody for almost five days against the rule of natural justice and fair administration of justice.

Justice Rika also faulted then Coast regional police Commander Francis Wanjohi over his handling of the case, saying he allowed his “emotions to override evidence of the case”.

The National Police Service Commission also directed a fresh trial of the two after examining the findings of Orderly Room proceedings due to an irregularity in the procedure used to sack the two officers.

BRIBE-GIVING DISPUTED

The commission directed that a fresh procedure be carried out to grant a fair hearing to the applicants but the two traffic officers filed the case, arguing that justice will not be served.

Mr Wanjohi stated that the two risked causing an “international disaster” against President Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta had their driver not been keen enough.

However, the President’s driver recorded a statement stating that he slowed down the vehicle when he spotted potholes ahead.

The judge ruled: “President Security must not be trivialized with scare mongering.”

The court stated that the presidential motorcade arrived at the scene when the two traffic officers were wrestling with the matatu driver, who had resisted arrest when they caught him after a chase.

The judge further observed that the matatu driver recorded a statement at the Makupa Police Station denying giving a bribe to the officers but he acknowledged resisting when the officers demanded the vehicle ignition key.

“The presidential escort officer recorded a statement stating he saw a scuffle between the officers and the crew of the matatu.

"The presidential escort officer, Simon Wanjoike, said he saw the police officer taking something from the crew. The incident occurred at night,” he said.

NO EVIDENCE FROM WITNESSES

Justice Rika said the records from the Orderly Room proceedings did not provide any evidence from witnesses regarding the alleged bribe-taking by the two officers.

The judge also declined an application by the National Police Service Commission and the Attorney-General to stay his decision.

“The court does not see anything to stay and in case the court is mistaken, the respondents are free to appeal,” he said.

The two sued Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet and Coast Regional Police Commander Francis Wanjohi for “illegal dismissal from the police service”.

They claimed Mr Boinnet and Mr Wanjohi could not prove the claims they made in the dismissal letters.

Mr Kimeli and Mr Atuti, who were based at the Makupa Police Station, were sacked on January 15 last year and sued the National Police Service and National Police Service Commission demanding their jobs back.

They sued their former bosses after their plea to the National Police Service Commission to be reinstated were rejected.

In their affidavit, the two defended themselves against the bribery accusations, saying they arrested a matatu driver who had blocked the road.

“The entire process leading to our dismissal... was fallacy, illegal, null and void,” they said.