A court has ordered Governor Mutahi Kahiga, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and two Nyeri County officials to appear before a public inquest into the death of former Nyeri governor Wahome Gakuru as witnesses.
Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi on Thursday said that Governor Kahiga and Mr Gachagua alongside Nyeri County Chief of Staff Paul Wambugu and County Secretary Benjamin Gachichio were previously summoned by his predecessor Wendy Kagendo last year.
Following the summons issued by Magistrate Kagendo on August 12, the officials sought a review of the orders before Mr Andayi.
Mr Andayi noted that before the court summonses were issued, his predecessor had delivered a ruling after considering a request made by the Gakuru family’s lawyer Martha Waweru and an objection to the application made by the county government.
He said that the issues raised by Mr Kahiga and Mr Gachagua’s lawyer Wahome Gikonyo had previously been presented in court before the summonses were issued.
Mr Gikonyo had argued that the four officials were not given an opportunity to defend themselves prior to the summonses.
But according to Mr Andayi, the public inquest was not a trial but a judicial inquiry meant to establish the circumstances under which the late governor died.
“The session will also give the deceased’s family and other interested persons an opportunity to question the witnesses so that they can get accurate facts of how their loved one met his death,” said the magistrate, while also ordering that the summonses remain valid.
In their written statements, which were presented in court on November 2 last year, the four government officials sought to be removed from the inquest, arguing that they got to know about Mr Gakuru’s accident at the same time as everyone else.
In their defence, through lawyers Kamotho Njomo and Mr Gikonyo, they said that none of the 18 witnesses who have so far testified have mentioned them.
They faulted the court for summoning them in the inquest proceedings.
Lawyer Gikonyo argued that the Criminal Procedure Code only allowed the court to give such a directive for additional witnesses before the commencement of inquest proceedings or after their completion.
In such cases, he said, the orders were supposed to be issued once a magistrate had established that an offence had been committed and made an inquiry on it.
In scenarios where the proceedings had concluded, such witnesses were meant to give additional evidence to the case, he added.
Mr Gikonyo said that the proceedings in the Gakuru inquest were midway through and the summonses were initiated by Ms Waweru and not the prosecution as per the law.
“Further, the family being the complainant in the matter overstepped its role by requesting for the summons since this is the duty of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP),” said lawyer Wahome.
In his decision, Mr Andayi agreed with him but noted that the court had a wide latitude in calling witnesses as the session was not a trial but an inquest.
The four government officials are accused of being involved indirectly in the road crash that claimed the life of Gakuru in the Makenji area on November 7, 2017.
According to Ms Waweru, Mr Kahiga is a direct beneficiary of the late governor’s death as he took over the office. Governor Kahiga is also accused of having made some remarks on the accident during a requiem mass for the late governor at Dedan Kimathi University.
Mr Kahiga said he had warned Gakuru not to use his Mercedes Benz due to its mechanical state.
He was quoted saying: “Up to today I keep asking everybody who bothers to listen: how did Wahome Gakuru find himself outside Nyeri when we agreed with him that the vehicle was faulty and he had told me three to four times, ‘My brother, hii gari ndio itaniua (this car will kill me one day)?”
And Mr Gachagua was a person of interest in the case because he is a brother of Nyeri’s first governor, Nderitu Gachagua, and could be easily linked to his businesses.
According to Ms Waweru, Mr Gakuru had started investigating a case of alleged misappropriation of public funds during Mr Gachagua’s tenure.
Mr Gachichio and Mr Wambugu were essential in the case as they were the ones who allocated the governor his staff that day.
Hearing continues on March 29 and 31.