Keep parochial interest out of CJ succession
Thursday, January 14th, 2021
The Judiciary is facing a watershed moment. Retired Chief Justice (CJ) David Maraga exited the stage and with a stern warning to judges: Do not to let Kenyans down. Be guided by the rule of law and firmly defend the Constitution.
“I want to tell you, judges, Kenyans have bestowed you to be the guardians of our Constitution.
If you waver, God will punish you. Do the right thing for the people of Kenya.”
There is an onslaught on the third Arm of Government and the interests at stake reek of underhand machinations.
That the powers that be, would want a Judiciary that would be complicit to their cause is obvious.
Equally obvious is that such interests are usually very limited - to self and cronies.
There are two vacancies at the apex court – that of Maraga and Prof Jackton Ojwang who retired from the Supreme Court last year.
The two positions have attracted competition and fervent speculation, particularly coming about one-and-half years before the next General Election, and a few months before the anticipated constitutional referendum proposed in the Building Bridges Initiative.
Besides playing a key role in the determination of a dispute in the presidential election should any arise, the CJ will swear-in the next president.
For these reasons, politicians from both divides are racking their brains on how they can have a stake in the court.
The red flag has been raised. Maraga took on the Executive in ways that made it uncomfortable.
The threats and inducements notwithstanding, he stood with what he felt was right with the Constitution as his main guide.
Given the high stakes involved, one shudders at the thought of a stooge institution. American lawyer and diplomat Caroline Kennedy is quoted:
“The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we have to have an independent Judiciary, judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing.”
It has taken a lot of sacrifice by Kenyans who agitated for reforms that yielded the independent Judiciary that the country celebrates today. Due to the fortitude, courage and integrity of judicial officers in the institution, the Judiciary is no longer an appendage of the Executive.
And this boils down to leadership. That is why the Judicial Service Commission should ensure that the recruitment of the next CJ is beyond reproach, to ensure public confidence and independence of the institution.