Kenyan court throws out changes to petition on Kenyatta, Ruto presidential bids

The High Court of Kenya has thrown out amendments to a petition asking the court to determine whether Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and former Cabinet Minister William Samoei Ruto can contest in the upcoming presidential election while facing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

A three-person panel of the High Court ruled on Thursday that the original petition stands but several amendments made to it had irregularly introduced new parties to the case.

Today’s ruling means that Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga, Vice President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, and Deputy Prime Minister Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi will no longer be part of the case, at least for the time being. The three leaders, who have also declared their interest in running for president, had been added to the list of respondents to the petition. The ruling also means Kenyatta and Ruto are not part of the case because the original petition had only the Attorney General as the respondent.

Judges Isaak Lenaola, Mohammed Abdullahi Warsame and Philemona Mbete Mwilu, however, pointed out that Kenyatta and Ruto are adversely mentioned in the substance of the petition and ordered they be served with copies of it. Lawyers Evans Monari, representing Kenyatta, and Jospeh Katwa-Kigen, representing Ruto, said that once they receive the petition they will seek instructions from their clients on how to proceed.

The judges said the case will be listed for mention on October 19. On that day, lawyers will be expected to update the court on whether they are ready to proceed to hearing or have applications to be made ahead of a hearing.

Ambrose Otieno Weda, who represents one set of petitioners, had been granted leave in July to amend the petition and serve it to all concerned so that they could submit their responses. At the time Weda had only indicated that he sought to add names of “substantive Kenyans” to the petition to enable the court settle at one time the question of which aspirants in the election set for March next year meet the integrity standards in the constitution.

However, the judges found that Weda, while amending the petition, had added new respondents to it without following the correct procedure. The judges’ ruling followed a challenge made by the lawyers representing Odinga, Musyoka, and Mudavadi questioning why their clients had been listed as parties to the case without the proper procedure being followed.

The judges ordered Weda to apply for the court’s leave to add Odinga, Musyoka, and Mudavadi as respondents. Weda said that he would do so.

The petitioners in this case are individual voters, some civil society organizations, such as the Kenya Youth Parliament and the Kenya Youth League, as well as some of the people who were displaced from their homes during the bloody upheaval that shook Kenya following the country’s last election in December 2007. One of the petitioners was elected a Member of Parliament last week.

The petitioners initially were all represented by Anthony Oluoch but after some months, some of them changed lawyers. They are now represented by two different lawyers who have taken different approaches to the case. For instance, Oluoch did not collaborate with Weda to add Odinga, Musyoka, and Mudavadi to the case.