Judge allows Rigathi, Kahiga to opt out of Gakuru's death inquest

Mutahi Kahiga, Rigathi Gachagua

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga and former Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua. They were summoned to appear before a public inquest into the death of former Nyeri governor Wahome Gakuru as witnesses.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

The High Court has allowed Nyeri governor Mutahi Kahiga and Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua to withdraw as witnesses in the inquest into the death of former Nyeri governor Wahome Gakuru.

Justice Florence Muchemi has quashed a magistrate’s court summon dated August 12, 2021 that ordered the duo to appear alongside Nyeri County secretary Benjamin Gachichio and the county’s chief of staff Paul Wambugu to testify.

The judge said that their statements will be of no value to the death investigation.

The magistrate had previously asked the four to appear before the inquest following a request by lawyer Martha Waweru, who is representing the late governor Gakuru’s family. Gakuru, who was Nyeri’s third governor, died following a car crash in 2017 at Makenji in Kabati, Murang’a County.

Late Nyeri Governor Wahome Gakuru

Late Nyeri Governor Wahome Gakuru.

Photo credit: File | Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Lawyer Waweru had told the court that Mr Gachagua was a person of interest in the inquest because just before Gakuru’s death, his administration had started investigating a case of misappropriation of public funds during the tenure of Nyeri's first governor, Nderitu Gachagua, who was a brother of Mr Gachagua.

Mr Kahiga was asked to appear so he could explain a statement he made after Gakuru’s death. Gakuru’s family said that during a requiem mass in November 2017 at Dedan Kimathi University, Mr Kahiga said he had warned him not to use his Mercedes Benz due to its mechanical state.

The late Nyeri Governor Wahome Gakuru's vehicle at Makuyu Police Station. It was involved in an accident that killed the governor on November 7, 2017 at Kabati along the Thika-Sagana highway in Murang'a County. On November 16, 2017, the DPP stopped the prosecution of Dr Gakuru's driver Samuel Kinyanjui over the accident. 

Photo credit: File | Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Mr Gachichio and Mr Wambugu were ordered to appear because they had allocated the governor's staff, especially the driver, on the fateful day.

'Irregular summons'

But in her decision, Justice Muchemi found that the testimonies of the four county government officials were not useful to the inquest. She ruled that the magistrate had issued the summons irregularly as the evidence of the officials was not considered.
“The officials had already told the court they got to know about the accident at the same time as everyone else,” she said.

The judge noted that in Governor Kahiga’s witness statement, he said that at the time of the accident he was serving as the county’s deputy governor.

Justice Muchemi also said that none of the witnesses who had testified had mentioned the summoned persons.

The magistrate who issued the original summons was replaced by Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi, who, on January 20, also upheld the decision after the county government sought a review.

Mr Andayi dismissed claims that the court had not considered the evidence of the four summoned persons before issuing the summons.

He said that the issues raised by Mr Kahiga and Mr Gachagua’s lawyer, Wahome Gikonyo, had been presented in court before the summonses were issued.

But Justice Muchemi found that Mr Andayi was misdirected to reject the objection of the four officials.

“The court granted the orders even though the prosecution led by Mwangi Gachanja had said that the summoned persons were not important to the inquest,” she said.

Some 17 witnesses have testified in the inquest. Only the investigating officer in the case is yet to testify.

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