Judge hearing Mau eviction case recuses himself

From left: Justice Mohammed Kullow, Justice Sila Munyao and Justice George Ongondo at the Nakuru High Court on September 30, 2019 during the mention of a case filed to stop the ongoing eviction by the government at the Maasai Mau Forest. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • This comes after an application by the petitioners who accused him of possible bias.

Environment and Lands Court Judge Sila Munyao, who is among a bench of three judges hearing the Mau Forest eviction case, has recused himself from hearing the matter.

This comes after an application by the petitioners who accused him of possible bias over what they termed ''apparent conflict of interest''.

In an oral application made by their lawyer Kimutai Bosek, the petitioners claimed the judge was likely to be biased because part of the evidence produced by the State was prepared by his wife.

It emerged that Mr Munyao's wife was the vice-chairperson of the taskforce whose report the government wishes to rely on in its push to revoke the 599 title deeds.

According to Mr Bosek, Ms Linda Chepkorir Ruto Munyao was part of the team mandated to determine the scale of destruction, degradation and encroachment of public and community forests in Kenya.

The taskforce report on Forest Resource Management and Logging Activities had recommended the eviction of illegal settlers from the forest.

The State has produced the report as evidence it seeks to rely on in its bid to revoke the titles in the Mau Forest which it says were issued irregularly.

Mr Bosek, in his application, claimed the recommendations in the report have a direct bearing on the case.

"We find ourselves in a situation where we cannot stand to interrogate the conduct of the members of the taskforce with one being the wife of the presiding judge. We request that the honourable judge recuse himself from the matter due to the apparent conflict of interest," said Mr Bosek.

The application, however, was opposed by State counsel Oscar Eredi who said it was malicious.

Mr Eredi claimed the application was meant to derail the case.

"I read malice in this application as the applicants had sufficient time to file but failed to do so. I urge the court to dismiss it," said Mr Eredi.

The three-judge bench comprising Justices Sila Munyao, Mohamed Kullow and John Ongondo was constituted by Chief Justice David Maraga to hear the case in 2018.

The petitioners closed their case on Tuesday after eight witnesses had testified.

After hearing the application, the judges took a break to look into the matter before making a ruling.