When Mwau petitioned court to be declared president
John Harun Mwau, 69, cuts the image of a sleuth: a firm handshake, an intimidating towering height, and the dark round shaped eyeglasses.
When he speaks, it is with an authoritative tone with some slight hidden combativeness.
He also keeps a distinguishable grey beard – which attracts attention.
A former police officer, and Kenya’s sports shooter entrant during the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games, Mr Mwau is one of the people who have petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the recent presidential elections.
He had also tried to stop the fresh election.
Regarded as one of most astute businessman in Kenya, with interest in various sectors, Mr Mwau has a string of controversies to his name.
He likes to personally argue his cases in court.
A former Kilome MP, Mr Mwau has had a career in politics and business.
His campaigns were epic, a show of might and power.
When Moi was pushed by both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other bilateral donors to establish an anti-corruption body, he – to the surprise of many – picked Mr Mwau as the first director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority (Kaca).
But Mr Mwau did not survive for long here after he decided to prosecute senior treasury and tax department officials for graft.
As a result, he collided with then Minister for Finance, Simeon Nyachae.
Mr Mwau had the High Court issue arrest warrants for the Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner-General, Mr John Msafari, Commissioner of Customs Samuel Chebii, Financial Secretary Joseph Kinyua, the Director of Fiscal and Monetary Affairs, Mr Job Njeru Kirira, and 11 other senior Customs officials.
That Mr Mwau wanted the four top treasury and Kenya Revenue Authority officials charged over an alleged fraud involving non-collection of Sh230 million in tax from wheat and sugar imports came as a surprise to those who thought he wouldn’t act.
But the attorney-general, Amos Wako, took over the case and terminated it.
It was this case that saw Mr Mwau clash with Mr Nyachae and a few days later, President Moi announced his suspension as director pending an inquiry by a Judicial Tribunal, which started operations on August 17, 1998.
It was comprised of Justice Riaga Omolo, Justice Emmanuel Okubasu and Justice David Rimita.
When the inquiry opened, Mr Mwau – who likes to represent himself – challenged and objected to various things: the judges’ official attire, the presence of Mr Wako as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to the summons he received from a police officer.
When he questioned the judges’ attire, Mr Justice Omolo cut him short: “Mr Mwau, you have no right over the clothes we wear!”
But Mr Mwau shot back and said that he was subject to a tribunal and not a court and that the professional attire of the judges was meant to intimidate him.
“I am not a suspect,” he said.
When it came to setting up a date for the hearing, Mr Mwau again objected even after Justice Rimita told him that the first sitting was to ensure he had been served with the allegations and then set another date for a continuous hearing.
“You know Mr Mwau we are entitled to respect as you are entitled to yours,” Justice Omollo said and Mr Mwau replied:
“I’m the most respectful person but I’ll try to resist illegality.”
A wealthy man, Mr Mwau resigned in 2010 as assistant minister for Trade after he was named in parliament on a list of four MPs being investigated for alleged drug trafficking.
Others named in Parliament by then Internal Security minister George Saitoti were MPs Ali Hassan Joho (now Mombasa governor), William Kabogo (former Kiambu governor), and Gideon Mbuvi alias Mike Sonko (now Nairobi governor). The other was Mombasa tycoon Ali Punjani.
Mr Mwau later sued to clear his name and several cases are still pending in court.
In 2011, he was one of the individuals named by former US President Barack Obama as a trafficker and later told the Nation that the US wanted him dead.
“The US never apologises for killing its enemies, real or imagined. They will violate other nations’ airspace and eliminate their targets.
“The task of justification is left to themselves,” he then said.
Popularly known as “The Boss” – a title he picked when he registered his own party, Party of Independent Candidates of Kenya (PICK), Mr Mwau accused former US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger as the source of his woes.
He later sued him in a 118-page suit where the Attorney-General was named as the first defendant and the envoy a second defendant.
It was in 1992 that Mwau first emerged into politics when he ran for the Westlands seat and as a presidential candidate.
He polled 10,449 votes and later petitioned the High Court to declare him the only validly nominated candidate.
Mr Mwau told the court that all the other candidates did not present the list of supporters nominating them in the ‘right paper’.
Mwau wanted to be declared the president on account that the law specified that the paper should be foolscap of 216 x 343 m while all the others presented an A4 paper of 21cm × 29.7cm.
The court ruled that “ingenious though this argument may be, it holds no water …”
In 1983, he had another controversial case when he sued the Principal Immigration Officer to return his passport No R256086, which had been withdrawn.
Mwau sought the intervention of the court to determine that his rights were being violated since then Article 81 (1) stated that “no citizen of Kenya shall be deprived of his freedom of movement, that is to say, the right to move freely throughout Kenya, (and) the the right to leave Kenya”.
But Justices A.H. Simpson, S.K. Sachdeva and J.M. Gachuhi said “the courts will not intervene to compel action by an executive officer unless his duty to act is clearly established and plainly defined and the obligation to act is peremptory”.
It was a daring case since it took place during the height of crackdown of anti-government individuals when critics were detained without trial.