D-Day as lawyers pick Havi’s successor

Thursday, March 10th, 2022 00:23 | By
Nelson Havi is being identified. He has backed the dual identification system employed by LSK in clearing members eligible to vote in the society’s elections. PD/COURTESY

Kenyan lawyers will today elect a fresh team to steer the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) after a chaotic two-year tenure of outgoing President Nelson Havi.

Having been the face of LSK for the past two years, Havi’s term ended prematurely in January after being riddled with leadership wrangles.

Due to its central role in the administration of justice, LSK hardly escapes the attention of politicians who   seek to influence the outcome of its elections and the composition of its leadership.

Throughout the campaigns, accusations and counter-accusations of some candidates being sponsored by the government, its agencies or civil society groups have emerged.

According to lawyer Peter Wanyama, LSK had in recent years relinquished its role as the conscience of society and custodian of the rule of law.

“Nowadays, the society does not respect our voice. We lack the moral authority to do anything, leave alone to lead anyone,” said Wanyama.

Candidates running for various positions, including the LSK female representative to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), wound up their campaigns on Tuesday with a call for an overhaul of the body.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will oversee the election of two general members’ representatives, a Coast representative and four upcountry representatives.

Polling centres

At least one member of the council must ordinarily be practicing in Mombasa while at least two other members should be practicing outside Nairobi and Mombasa. They must also have been in practise for at least 25 years.

The voting will take place at 25 polling centres based at the High Court or Law Courts in Mombasa, Malindi, Machakos, Kisumu, Nakuru and Kericho as well as Milimani and Supreme courts in Nairobi.

The votes will then be tallied at the LSK secretariat offices in Lavington, Nairobi.

Presidential aspirants have described the polls as the “unity of the society” election which will usher in a more cohesive and vibrant organisation.

LSK election board cleared five candidates to compete for the position of president.

Election rules of the Society stipulate that a person seeking the presidency must be a member, or former member, of the LSK Council or a lawyer who is qualified to be appointed as a Supreme Court judge with at least 15 years of experience in legal practice.

Outgoing vice president Carolyne Kamende Daudi is the only female candidate. Others are Matthew Nyabena, Omwanza Ombati, Eric Theuri and Ng’etich Benhard.

For the position of vice president, it is a contest between  veterans and newcomers Ajwang’ Debora Anditi, Akusala Boniface Apamo, Mongeri David Nyamweya and Odhiambo Faith Aoko.

Those who have been cleared to run for the position of LSK’s female representative at the JSC are Julie Soweto, Jacqueline Ingutiah, Kipsang Christine, Konuche Anna, Jane Nyaboke and Otieno Mercy.

Rule of law

Most of the candidates have listed the fulfillment of advocates’ dreams, their unity and the rule of law as some of the major issues in their agenda.

Nyabena, who is the chair LSK coast branch, has promised to unite the society if elected president.

“They are choosing a candidate who presents the unity agenda most and I believe I am that candidate,” he said.

Ombati, who has 18 years in practice, promises that if elected, he will support the young lawyers to develop and progress in the profession.

He points out four main challenges namely unity of purpose, the challenges of young lawyers between one and five years who constitute about 65 per cent of the legal profession, the stifling of the environment of the legal profession in the practice areas, dealing with the aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic and technology.

“Once elected, I will conclude the forensic audit which has been authorised by members,’’ he says.

Nyabena says he will convene a leaders conference between the council of the LSK and the chairs of all branches and chapters to deliberate on the way forward and resolve  immediate challenges.

Kamende defended her term as LSK deputy president, saying they represented the public in several key cases. If elected, she has promised to ensure a conducive environment for all members of the bar as well as protect the spheres of the practice of law. She has also promised to increase public understanding of, and respect for, the rule of law and the role of the legal profession.

Theuri says he will work with lawyers to transform the legal profession and strengthen LSK to ensure it works effectively with branches and chapters to enhance the practice and members’ welfare.

He says the LSK president, being the first among equals, should set the pace in unifying the council through consensus building and achieving a unity of purpose in the achievement of the society’s strategic vision.

Ng’etich, the outgoing upcountry representative Rift valley region, has promised to protect the reputation of LSK and its members.

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