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Election petition loss only adds to Awiti’s headaches

Friday July 20 2018

Cyprian Awiti

Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti. On Thursday, July 19, 2018, the Court of Appeal upheld the nullification of his election. PHOTO | BARACK ODUOR | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

RUSHDIE OUDIA
By RUSHDIE OUDIA
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BARACK ODUOR
By BARACK ODUOR
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Cyprian Awiti’s political career as Governor of Homa Bay may have been ended on Thursday after the Court of Appeal upheld the nullification of his election.

Either that or the appellate court was only offering the governor (right) a chance to prove he had nine political lives and survive another debacle.

In about two hours, Justice Fatuma Sichale issued a blow-by-blow account of events starting August 8, 2017. In the end, she declared judges Philip Waki, Fatuma Sichale and Otieno Odek had confirmed and upheld the High Court’s decision to nullify Mr Awiti’s election victory. 

NINE LIVES

So what does it mean? Mr Awiti’s electoral case has been one of the many battles he was fighting.

Requiring bed rest after undergoing a minor surgery on his eye, the governor was not in the courtroom when the judges read the verdict. His legal team, led by Siaya Senator James Orengo, Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo and Prof Tom Ojienda, told reporters they will fight back. They will appeal in the Supreme Court.

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Yet for Mr Awiti, it only twisted a knife in his burdened back. He has been fighting claims of corruption and inefficiency levelled against his top officials by his critics and even his county executive. Ethics and Anti-Corruption detectives had been poring over documents in county offices after claims emerged there were ghost workers. Their findings are not yet in. 

SH32 BILLION

The governor is also in a court face off with about 670 casual workers who claim they were irregularly sacked by the county government. Depending on how those cases go, it could be more burden for the man who once worked as the country director for Marie Stopes Kenya.

The governor has also been under fire from his critics after the county announced in 2015 it had signed deals worth Sh32 billion with investors who attended a conference. Two years later, those investors have not brought the money in. 

JUDGE ERRED

In the courtroom, the case had initially been filed by former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga who had run against Mr Awiti, but lost both in the ODM primaries and at the General Election. Aggrieved with the first, he ran as an independent candidate. For the second, he sued arguing that Mr Awiti had profited from irregularities perpetuated by the electoral commission.

The appellate court found that the trial judge erred in holding generally that there were several alteration of results in statutory forms without going to specifics.

It also found that Homa Bay High Court judge erred in law by failing to mention the scrutiny and recount report and ignoring its contents. 

LONG MONTHS

Justice Sichale also pointed out how the trial judge in his judgement contradicted himself in giving the elections a clean bill of health on one hand and nullifying it in subsequent paragraphs.

Mr Awiti’s lawyer Orengo asked the judge to furnish them with entire 120-page judgment as soon as possible.

The governor can either choose to go back to the polls or fight for his seat at the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, Mr Magwanga’s supporters burst into song and dance outside the main court building in Kisumu.

To Mr Mangwanga, it could be victory after what he argues were long months of unfairness.