Calm but combative lawyer Battles ‘raila oath’ charges

Lawyer Francis Tom Joseph Kajwang’ at Uhuru Park on Tuesday. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG
Lawyer Francis Tom Joseph Kajwang’ at Uhuru Park on Tuesday. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG 

He sauntered into Uhuru Park to a rapturous welcome.

Donning a wig and a flowing black robe, the sweltering heat notwithstanding, Francis Tom Joseph Kajwang’ popularly known as TJ Kajwang’, arrived at the venue of the much anticipated oathing of National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga, about two hours to the main event.

He was seated at the main dais by 12.30pm and many did not think the MP, who is serving his second stint in Parliament, would turn up to be the man to swear in Mr Odinga. To assist him in the job was combative lawyer Miguna Miguna.

The two lawyers did the job with ease, a sign that they had either rehearsed or were familiar with the process.

But about 24 hours later, the soft-spoken lawyer was in police custody, being questioned over his role in the “swearing in” process. He was charged with being present and consenting to the administration of an oath to commit treason.

Plain-clothed police officers nabbed him outside the Milimani Law Courts soon after leaving the court in a matter between the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

Mr Kajwang’ is representing MPs together with fellow legislator and lawyer Peter Kaluma, in a case they are challenging the reduction of their salaries and allowances. The legislator took the arrest positively stating, “If my arrest and prosecution will be the ultimate price I must pay for my role in the swearing of the people’s president, so be it.

“That will be a small price to pay compared to what Raila Amolo Odinga has paid all his life for political justice in this country.”

Although Nasa had promised that a judge would oversee the process, it turned out that Mr Kajwang’ and Mr Miguna were the ones to do the job.

At one point, Chief Justice David Maraga had to dispel rumour doing rounds that he had barred any judge from taking part in the oath. According to the CJ, judges are independent and he cannot bar anyone from doing the job.

The mood was ecstatic. The crowd had been anxiously waiting for the event since early in the morning, singing songs of jubilation.

And the Nasa leaders could not disappoint them. This is because the “ceremony” had been postponed several times.

Then came the much awaited time and Mr Kajwang’ ushered Mr Odinga close to the podium and handed him the Bible.

And as Mr Odinga read the holy book, there was deafening noise from the huge crowd. Mr Kajwang’ had done his job. All was well until the following day when the police nabbed him as he left the courtroom. Mr Kajwang’ is the younger brother of late Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang’.

But unlike his older brother who was more outspoken with his “Bado Mapambano” fame, the younger Kajwang’ is calm and always wears a smile. But when things get nasty, Mr Kajwang’ can turn combative.

Like when he led MPs in a protest in Parliament during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2016 State of the Nation Address. He later led MPs in what they termed as the Firimbi Movement.
Come May last year during the ODM nominations for the National Assembly seat for Ruaraka constituency and Mr Kajwang’ could not be bullied by former nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro, who is more seasoned and well-known in city politics.

Both were fined by the party’s disciplinary committee and Ms Ongoro asked not to vie in Ruaraka. She bolted from the party and contested the seat on the Amani National Congress party, a Nasa affiliate.

On the night of August 9, 2017, Mr Kajwang’ was declared the winner after garnering 36,892 votes against Ms Ongoro’s 31,512.

Not deterred, she filed an election petition but Justice Richard Mwongo dismissed the case, stating that the petitioner had made many allegations but failed to prove any of them.

The dismissal sent Mr Kajwang’ and his supporters into wild cheers outside the Milimani Law Courts. During the hearing of a petition filed by Mr Odinga challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in the August 8 poll, Mr Kajwang’ and scores of lawyers represented the party.

Mr Kajwang’ served as a member of the House Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in the last Parliament.

He was also a member of the chairpersons committee and would serve as alternate Speaker when the Speaker and his deputy were not in the House.