Tribunal refuses to reverse Kioni, Murathe ouster from Jubilee

Jeremiah Kioni and David Murathe

Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni (left) and David Murathe.

Photo credit: File

President William Ruto’s allies are set to take over leadership of former ruling party Jubilee, after a tribunal declined to reverse the ouster of officials leaning towards retired President Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio coalition leader Raila Odinga.

The Political Parties Disputes Tribunal on Thursday declined a request by ousted officials -Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni, national vice-chairman David Murathe and national treasurer Kagwe Gichohi –to nullify and set aside their removal from office.

The tribunal comprising Desma Nungo, Dr Wilfred Mutubwa and Stephen Musau declined to set aside the resolutions passed by the Jubilee Party National Executive Committee (NEC) on February 10, 2023.

This is because Mr Kioni, Mr Murathe and Mr Gichohi had not challenged their removal through the party’s Internal Dispute Resolution Mechanism (IDRM), hence the tribunal lacked powers to interfere with the NEC’s decision. It was ruled that they lodged the appeal prematurely.

“It is not in dispute the issues underlying this appeal are internal issues between the party and its membership. Accordingly, pursuant to Section 40(1)(a)(b) as read together with Section 40(2) of the Political Parties Act, the tribunal can only assume jurisdiction once an attempt at IDRM is demonstrated. This in furtherance of the doctrine of exhaustion that is now of esteemed juridical lineage in Kenya,” ruled the tribunal.

In addition, it lifted interim orders that had allowed the ousted party officials to remain in office pending the determination of the case.

This is even as the tribunal annulled decision of the Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu to acknowledge the leadership changes without investigating whether the NEC meeting was properly convened.

“Whereas the registrar knew that Kioni, Murathe and Gichohi were likely to be affected by the exercise of her function under the Political Parties Act and her finding, she did not allow them a reasonable opportunity to be heard. Her action or finding was procedurally unfair,” said the tribunal. It stated that the registrar’s letter dated February 13, 2023 “is null and void and of no consequential effect”.

Apart from failing to check on the legality of the meeting, the tribunal ruled that the registrar complied with the Political Parties Act in all the other aspects.

In the said NEC’s resolutions, Mr Kioni was replaced by East African Legislative Assembly member Kanini Kega who was appointed as the Acting secretary-general while Eldas MP Adan Keynan was appointed national vice-chairperson to replace Mr Murathe. Mr Gichohi was replaced by Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai.

In its ruling, the tribunal declined a request by the ousted party officials to invalidate a letter sent by the party’s Deputy Secretary General Joshua Kutuny to the office of registrar of political parties informing it about a meeting held by the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) that resolved their removal.

The meeting was held on February 10, 2023 and the registrar’s office was notified about the leadership changes the same day.

The tribunal observed that Mr Kioni, Mr Murathe and Mr Gichohi were in agreement that any prayers concerning the internal issues of the party were premature and they did not dispute that the matter required IDRM.

“We find that we do not at this stage have jurisdiction to consider and grant any prayers for nullification of the notice dated February 10, 2023, the agenda, and resolution as a sought in this appeal. In the upshot we decline the invitation to issue a declaration of invalidity of the notice issued by Mr Kutuny,” the tribunal ruling while declining the request.

Mr Kioni, Mr Murathe and Mr Gichohi wanted the tribunal to invalidate the notice for NEC meeting together with the agenda, resolutions and Mr Kutuny’s letter to the registrar.

But the tribunal stated: “we decline to order the quashing or setting aside the purported notice issued by Mr Kutuny (for NEC meeting) dated February 2, 2023.”

Through lawyer Edward Muriu, who is also Gatanga MP, the new party officials said the case was prematurely filed before the tribunal.

Mr Muriu said the complainants should have first subjected the complaints to the internal dispute resolution mechanisms before moving to the tribunal.

“The appeal offends the doctrine of exhaustion of internal administrative remedies as the applicants have not exhausted the remedies provided under Jubilee Party’s Constitution and Section 40 of the Political Parties Act,” said Mr Muriu.