Court upholds election of Kwale Governor Fatma Achani

Kwale Governor Fatuma Achani. 

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The High Court on Thursday upheld the election of Kwale Governor Fatuma Achani. 

Justice Francis Gikonyo ruled that there was no evidence that the gubernatorial elections were marred with irregularities or noncompliance with the election laws and the Constitution on the part of the electoral commission. 

"I find and hold that Ms Achani was validly elected in the election conducted on August 9, 2022 for the position of the Governor Kwale County," said the judge. 

He further said that after analysing the evidence tabled before him, he found no justification to nullify Ms Achani 's victory. 

Justice Gikonyo said the allegations of voter bribery and other electoral malpractices as stated by the petitioners were not proven beyond reasonable doubt. 

"This court finds that there were no election offences of criminal nature committed so as to invalidate election of Ms Achani," he said while dismissing all the grounds of the petition adding they were mere allegations, speculative in nature , lacked specifics and were not backed by any tangible evidence . 

On the claims that Ms Achani personally committed election offenses, the judge noted that there was no evidence she participated in any voter bribery , or that she influenced the voters to vote for her when she commissioned the construction of the county headquarters. 

"The Sh4,000 bonuses alleged to have been used to entice voters was not shown to have been used to influence voting. They remained high level allegations which were not backed by any material evidence ," said the judge. 

Not disclosed

The petitioners had alleged that the county employees were either paid or promised heavy bonuses to campaign for Ms Achani and or support her bid but the court dismissed this claim. 

The judge also said that the names of voters who were allegedly paid Sh600 after showing evidence of voting for Ms Achani were not disclosed. 

" I find that this evidence lacks in material , it was speculative , unsubstantiated , weak and does not meet the evidential threshold. I reject these allegations ," the judge said. 

The petitioners also wanted the court to find that Ms Achani was not eligible to contest in the August polls because of engaging in electoral malpractices . 

However, the court cleared  her of any wrongdoing, explaining that there was no evidence she had influenced voters before, during and after the elections. 

Justice Gikonyo noted that the petitioners should have proved that Ms Achani knowingly contravened the Elections Act by personally  participating in any electoral offence or through her agents. 

The court also found that the IEBC conducted the polls in compliance with the constitution, and that it satisfactorily explained errors that were pointed out by the petitioners .

Ms Achani later lauded the court for upholding her victory.

“I am thankful that the court has vindicated me. So many people did not believe that a woman can be a leader. This has given me more strength and confidence that even as a woman, you can handle any battle and win,” she said. She asked her opponents to join her and work together.

A section of county residents welcomed the ruling. According to Richard Onsongo, the ruling was long overdue. “Governor Achani had won the elections fairly,” he said.

Mr Pala said that despite the judgment, he still believed the county needs a better leader.

“As an activist, all I can do is to continue urging residents to always vote for the right leader,” he said. He did not indicate whether they were going to appeal.