Kenya: Urgently Restore Courts’ Credibility

There is little doubt that the Judiciary was one of the institutions which seemed to have undergone significant, positive reforms in the first few years after the 2010 Constitution came into effect.

For the first time, interviews for the position of Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice were held in the full glare of the public.

Prospective candidates faced tough grilling and there was wide consensus that the nominees who emerged from that process were worthy of the lofty positions they would soon occupy.

A new cadre of judges was soon recruited, including many youthful faces and several feisty female judges who proceeded to make a mark in the stations to which they were posted.

It is beyond question that the existence of a Supreme Court which was viewed as independent saved the country from the prospect of political actors seeking extra-judicial means to prosecute an electoral dispute following the March 2013 presidential election.

Sadly, the early promise the Judiciary showed, the hopes of many that the institution would emerge as a great bulwark of the constitutional order and a guarantor of the democratic process in Kenya, have given way to well-founded despair and disappointment

The credibility of the most important court in the land, the Supreme Court, lies in tatters.

One of its judges faces a tribunal to determine his suitability to remain in office, following claims that he had taken a $2 million bribe.

Two judges are fighting to prove they should stay in office beyond the age of 70 prescribed in the new Constitution while three others are the subject of a separate complaint by the Law Society of Kenya over what the LSK contends was an irregular intervention on this matter in a separate case. To cap it all, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga is soon to retire.

This is an exceedingly worrisome situation. It is unclear what remedies exist to solve the problem. What is beyond dispute is that given the centrality of the Judiciary in the nation’s constitutional order, the Judicial Service Commission, the Law Society of Kenya and other institutions including Parliament urgently need to convene a sitting to seek ways to restore the credibility of the institution.

Source: All Africa