As the Court of Appeal continues deciding on election petitions, the cost burden is becoming unbearable for most people who dared to appeal.
Petitioners, who have lost at the appellate court, are now faced with hefty costs to foot, running into millions of shillings.
Among them is Mr Benard Kitur, who came second in the Nandi Hills parliamentary election last year.
The High Court had nullified the election of Mr Alfred Keter in a case filed by Mr Kitur. The MP, however, appealed the verdict and won.
After being slapped with a Sh6 million bill by the appellate court, money that will cater for the costs incurred by Mr Keter and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Mr Kitur launched a funds drive to help him raise the money.
He then shared a paybill number through which well-wishers can help him raise the money. “I can’t name the exact figure at the moment. I appreciate Kenyans from all walks of life for their continued support,” he said, expressing optimism that he will soon raise the Sh6 million.
While the petitioners’ costs seem high, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Allen Gichuhi does not think they are punitive.
Mr Gichuhi said the capping of costs by judges makes it fair because if lawyers were left to determine what they should be paid for their efforts, the amounts will be higher.
“Before the courts capped costs, on average, election petitions would range between Sh20 million and Sh50 million,” Mr Gichuhi told the Sunday Nation.
Another petitioner who has been left with holes in his pockets is former Kirinyaga Senator Dickson Karaba. He has a Sh5 million bill to foot after the Court of Appeal rejected his case against incumbent Charles Kibiru.
Former Bonchari MP Zebedeo Opore must fork out Sh3 million — Sh1.5 million for IEBC and a similar amount for MP Oroo Oyioka.
Mr Walter Nyambati, a former MP, should equally raise Sh3 million to cater for the costs incurred by the electoral agency and the Nyamira Governor John Nyagarama.
Others who are to shoulder costs that have not been specified by the Court of Appeal include Mr Arthur Apungu who was suing for the Ikolomani MP’s seat, Mr Evans Nabwera (Likuyani) and Mr Jeremiah Matoke (Bomachoge).
The LSK boss said the common charge of Sh3 million “is even on the lower side”.
“One thing we have to appreciate is that election petitions are very involving. The minute an advocate takes on an election petition, he can almost literally shut down his office,” said Mr Gichuhi. “We actually make a loss, to be honest.”
He added: “You will find that on average, it may even take you more than 500 hours in the six months, actually even 1,000 hours. That takes you even up to Sh10 million.”
Mr Gichuhi’s predecessor Isaac Okero had spoken on the need for some degree of regulation in the costs levied.
“With the costs escalating, it means the matter of election disputes is the preserve of the wealthy or the prohibitive costs will make Kenyans with genuine complaints keep away from the courts,” Mr Okero told Nation earlier this year.
But Mr Kitur said election cases are a very costly affair. “Election petitions should not be highly priced. It should not be only for the super-rich,” he said.
Among the highest amounts ever set is Sh12 million that of Mr Peter Odima, who was challenging the election of Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong at the High Court.