14 November 2017

Kenya: Awiti, Magwanga Supporters Clash in Homa Bay Court

The hearing of a petition challenging the election of Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti was adjourned for more than 30 minutes after supporters of two opposing groups clashed.

Governor Awiti's supporters of and those of former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga fought outside the Homa Bay High Court Tuesday morning.

Mr Magwanga, who unsuccessfully competed against Mr Awiti in the August 8 polls, is challenging the governor's win.

On Tuesday, a war of words began after each group consisting mainly youths accused the other of barring them from accessing the court where the hearing was taking place.

"You can't block us from getting into the court because this is a public institution. We'll enter by force," one of the youths was heard shouting.

SHOUTING MATCH

The angry youths overpowered security guards and entered the court compound where they started shouting at each other.

Efforts by the security guards who were manning the gate to intervene did not bear fruit.

A few minutes later, the youths began verbal exchanges. The situation turned worse after Mr Magwanga's lead lawyer, Charles Kanjama, stood in court Mr Awiti's supporters jeering him while those supporting Mr Magwanga cheered him.

A similar verbal exchange was witnessed when Awiti's lead lawyer, Tom Ojienda, arrived in the court. Lawyer Kanjama then requested Justice Joseph Karanja to order their clients to talk to their supporters so that they keep calm.

Mr Kanjama said the environment for hearing the proceedings were not conducive.

COURT DIRECTIVE

"Your honour, through your directive, can you adjourn this process for 30 minutes for our clients to restrain their supporters before we proceed due to unruly behaviour outside the court," Mr Kanjama said.

Mr Ojienda did not object but concurred with Mr Kanjama before the judge ordered for a break.

In his order, Justice Karanja warned both parties to restrain their supporters before the court resumed.

He said the supporters were interfering with court proceedings due to noise.

"I'm likely to move this court elsewhere if you cannot control your supporters. We all strain to hear what is said inside here because of unnecessary noise," he said.

The judge also told lawyers for both parties to tell their clients to talk to their supporters to avoid thronging the court.

"Next time we may be forced to allow limited access to court since the room is small and can't accommodate this number," he said.

Governor Awiti, his deputy Hamilton Orata and Mr Magwanga and his running mate, Joshua Orero, were present in court.

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