At ease: Relief for Sonko as case against his victory struck out

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko can now breathe easy after a petition challenging his August 8 win was struck out yesterday. Justice Mbogholi Msagha said the court had no option but to strike out the petition filed by Japheth Muroko and Zacchaeus Okoth. The two said they are no longer interested in pursuing the case.

The judge slapped the two petitioners with costs, ordering them to pay Sonko Sh2.5 million. They will also pay the IEBC and returning officer Joseph Mele a further Sh2.5 million. “As matters stand now, the petitioners are no longer interested in taking advantage of their right to a fair hearing and the court cannot force them to proceed with a matter they have lost interest in.

The court is left with no alternative but to order the petition be struck out,” the judge said. The twist in the petition came a day after Muroko said he is living in fear after allegedly receiving death threats. The activist initially wanted Sonko’s win invalidated over claims of massive illegalities and irregularities.

He filed an affidavit in which he said strange people called him on Saturday and warned him against setting foot in court on Monday to testify. “Thereafter, text messages were sent to my phone threatening to terminate my life and that of my wife and advocates should I proceed with the hearing,” the affidavit says. Muroko told the judge the decision to withdraw the petition was “on free will and my own violation and for security reasons”.

But justice Mbogholi declined to accept their notice to withdraw the case, saying the two had not followed the required procedure. The judge said they ought to have made a formal application and published their intention to withdraw the case in a national newspaper.

They should also have notified the registrar required to publish a gazette notice on the same. The judge was of the view that striking out an election petition is a drastic action which should be exercised cautiously.

But he said he had no other option because the two were clear that they wanted nothing to do with the case. “But considering there are strict timelines set out for the hearing and completion of petitions, for now this court is left with no alternative,” he said. The judge also recalled that Sonko had earlier sought to strike out the case on grounds that his deputy Polycarp Igathe had not been included in the petition.

This article was published by the Star Newspaper on January 10, 2018