Why court dismissed poll petition against Othaya MP Mary Wambui

The fight to succeed retired President Kibaki as Othaya MP may have been one of the fiercest before, during and after the March 4 General Election.

Before the elections, the contest pitted Kibaki’s preferred candidate, James Gichuki Mugambi, against businesswoman (now the MP) Mary Wambui Munene. The fight was for the TNA party ticket, which was the most popular in the area. Wambui won the seat and the battle shifted to a contest between her and Nairobi lawyer Gichuki King’ara in an election petition challenging the outcome.

The seat, held by Kibaki since 1974, had eight aspirants. Wambui (TNA) won with 16,285 votes. King’ara (GNU) came second with14,218 votes while Mugambi (Saba Saba Asili) came third with 10,972 votes. He had defected after losing the TNA ticket.

On April 8, King’ara filed the petition at the High Court in Nyeri. He hired three lawyers - Kyalo Mbobu, Kithinji Marete and Carol Kimere - to represent him. He also called 21 witnesses to his side. Wambui put up a fight through three lawyers - Cecil Miller, Peter Wena and Pauline McAsila - while the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and its area returning officer were represented by lawyer Peter Munge.

King’ara raised issues touching on Wambui’s eligibility as a candidate based on academic qualifications and also her integrity under Chapter Six of the Constitution. He also raised allegations of voter bribery, intimidation of agents, change of voting venues and a host of other irregularities.

But what made the petition unique was the lawyer’s allegations of Kibaki’s involvement in Othaya campaigns both as President and area MP at the time.

King’ara claimed during campaigns, Kibaki’s security obstructed him and his supporters from accessing the areas where he ( Kibaki) visited. He told the court only one candidate accompanied Kibaki on his tour of the constituency and addressed the President’s political gatherings.

On the voting day, March 4, Kibaki toured the constituency and as a security measure, various roads leading to and out of Othaya were inaccessible to the electorate hence disenfranchising them, King’ara claimed.

“The ultimate result of Kibaki’s conduct was to tilt the electoral ground in favour of one candidate who was erroneously presented to the electorate in Othaya as the only development-minded among a host of other candidates,” he argued.

One of his witnesses, Lucy Njeri, produced video footage showing candidates, including Wambui, being barred from accessing the Othaya Boys’ High School compound where the former President was holding a public function on February 14.