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April 29, 2013

Kenya Chief Justice Denies Bribery in Presidential Petition

by Reuters

Kenya's chief justice on Monday denied accusations that he had received bribes to rule in favor of President Uhuru Kenyatta in a petition challenging the outcome of last month's election that was the biggest test yet of the newly reformed judiciary.

Kenya's Supreme Court, chaired by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, upheld Kenyatta's victory, dismissing a petition by presidential contender Raila Odinga. Former Prime Minister Odinga accepted the verdict, helping douse tensions after tribal violence blighted the previous election five years before.

The judges' unanimous decision was that Kenyatta had been "validly elected", and that Odinga failed to offer enough evidence of malpractices to overturn the outcome of the vote.

Many Kenyans hailed the court's role in helping the peaceful democratic transition in their country which has the biggest economy in east Africa.

But while Odinga and other opposition leaders have not accused the six-member Supreme Court of corruption, some Kenyans did make such charges online and even wished Mutunga dead.

"For me, the most hurtful allegation was that I had been bribed in the Presidential Petition." Mutunga said in a statement. "I have never been offered a bribe in my life."
Mutunga, a well-respected lawyer, was appointed in 2011 to reform a judiciary seen as in the pay of the political elite.

"I have no doubt in my mind that anybody who dares offer me a bribe, regardless of status, would be the first one I arrest under the constitution and the laws of this land."

Mutunga said the online attacks on him were "indecent, vulgar, and unacceptable".
The chief justice, who ran his statement on Twitter and Facebook, urged anyone with evidence of bribery to present it to the Judicial Service Commission.

Although Odinga, 68, accepted the ruling of the court, he said he did not fully agree with it, having alleged "rampant illegalities" in the vote.

The fifty-one year old Kenyatta, who faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC), comfortably beat Odinga in total votes won, but only just avoided a run-off by edging above the 50 percent mark.

He denies helping incite violence after the 2007 vote and says he will cooperate with the court to clear his name.

Mutunga has complained of harassment before, citing threats to himself and other judges by a criminal gang in a court case where rights groups sought to bar Kenyatta from running for the presidency citing his ICC charges. So far no one has been arrested over Mutunga's claims.

Corruption is a big issue in Kenya and holds back the economy by choking investment. Transparency International ranks Kenya 139th out of the 174 nations in its 2012 global corruption perception index, lagging behind some of its neighbors.