The curious case of Kethi Kilonzo’s disbarring from the Makueni Senate by-election leaves more questions than answers. What to believe? Where lays the truth? What really happened? What could be the ramifications? And how do you report the story without one side or the other believing the reporter to be utterly biased?
KETHI KILONZO’S STAR RISES OVER THE SUPREME COURT
Let’s try a linear approach and start at the beginning.
Lawyer Kethi Kilonzo represented the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Africog challenging the March 4 election of President Uhuru Kenyatta in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, in which she argued that the results announced by the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) were not credible.
The Supreme Court decided unanimously in favour of the election result standing and President Kenyatta was confirmed in office but Kethi Kilonzo has become a bit of a star: the clever, feisty young woman who argued articulately.
THE DEATH OF MUTULA KILONZO
A few weeks later on 27 April, Kethi Kilonzo’s father, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo was found dead at his Maanzoni Lodge in Machakos County, cause of death still unknown, precipitating a by-election for the vacant Senate seat.
The late Senator Kilonzo’s wife, and Kethi’s stepmother, Nduku Kilonzo, looked set at one point to stand in the election to take over from her husband but ultimately it was daughter Kethi who lined herself up to stand for the Wiper Party under the CORD coalition.
Meanwhile, Prof. Philip Kaloki was selected (if that is the right word) for the NARC’s nomination under the Jubilee coalition.
So, the battle lines were set for a by-election for the position of Senator for Makueni on 22 July which would have seen Ms Kethi Kilonzo romp home to victory and set herself up, thereafter, for higher things.
But hold it there. The nominations of both Kethi Kilonzo and Prof. Philip Kaloki were then challenged; the former on the grounds that she was not a registered voter and the latter that he belonged to two political parties at the same time (Narc and United Republican Party).
Off everyone went to argue their case in front of three commissioners from the electoral commission dispute resolution commission and yesterday they made their ruling.
KILONZO OUT, KALOKI IN
In the case of Prof. Philip Kaloki the commissioners cleared him to stand for election, stating that no evidence had been brought against him, only two letters written to the registrar of political parties.
In the case of Ms Kethi Kilonzo the commissioners found that she was not a registered voter and therefore was disqualified from standing in the Makueni by-election. In doing so, they said that she had been inconsistent in her testimony and of not knowing the location of the registration centre (NCC Social Hall in Karen, Langa’ata constituency) where she claimed to have registered.
PHOTOCOPIES AND STOLEN DOCUMENTS?
During the hearings Ms Kilonzo said she had registered as a voter using a copy of her expired passport and a copy of her ID card which had been stolen.
The commissioners found also that the acknowledgement slip provided by Kethi Kilonzo proving her registration, which was at first accepted by the returning officer, was from a book of such slips that had been stolen from the election commission. The booklet, it was stated, had only been used previously to register retired President Kibaki at the start of the registration process.
Where does that leave us?
The Wiper/Cord side will back another candidate and probably still win the by-election.
The pro-Raila press will declare the whole matter a stitch up and give it further cause to attack the IEBC, as the Daily Nation has done today.
Either way the whole nomination process and the candidate acceptance process in this instance must be investigated thoroughly.
SOME BIG ‘IFS’ AND ‘BUTS’
IF Ms Kethi Kilonzo has been unfairly blocked from standing in the Makueni by-election – heads should roll but even if this were to be found to be the case the Kenya Forum doesn’t think they will.
IF the acknowledgement slip is found to have been stolen in the first place, both the electoral commission and Ms Kilonzo’s election team must face questions: why did the former not secure an important document, how did the latter come by it?
IF Ms Kethi Kilonzo is found to have lied under oath, then she must answer to the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and take the consequences but the Kenya Forum thinks that even in this eventuality it will not happen.
And a final thought. Surely in this day and age it is a simple enough process to determine whether or not an individual is on the electoral register.