High Court Judge recuses from Mau case

From left: Justice Mohammed Kullow, Justice Sila Munyao and Justice George Ongondo at the Nakuru High Court PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Nakuru Environment and Land Court judge Justice Sila Munyao has recused himself from hearing the Mau Eviction case. The judge was among a bench of three judges that had been composed by Chief Justice David Maraga in 2018 to hear and determine the matter conclusively. The matter awaiting judgment is now at a deadlock as Justice Mohammed Kullow and Justice George Ongondo have since been left solely to handle the controversial land case.

The judge had been accused of possible bias in what was termed as an apparent conflict of interest by a class of petitioners.

An oral application made through their lawyer Kimutai Bosek claimed that the judge was likely to be biased because part of the evidence produced by the state and relied upon had been prepared by the wife of the learned judge. 

In the deposition of the matter it had emerged that Justice Munyao’s wife was the vice-chairperson of a task-force whose report the government wished to rely on in its push to revoke some 599 title deeds. According to lawyer Bosek, Ms Linda Chepkorir Ruto Munyao had been a part of a team formulated 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 recommended the eviction of illegal settlers from the Mau Forest. It is this report that the state produced as evidence which the court relied on in the government’s bid to revoke land titles assigned to individuals residing in the Mau Forest. The government averred that the titles 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.

Nonetheless, through State Counsel Oscar Eredi, the application was termed Malicious and abuse of the court process if not an application meant to derail the case. He stated that the petitioners ough to have produced the application at the onset of 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 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.

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