New Attorney General Githu Muigai took over office from Amos Wako last week. Kenyans have high expectations that he will transform the State Law Office that has for years suffered public mistrust due to the manner in which the holders were manipulated by the Government. The Standard on Sunday Reporter Isaac Ongiri spoke to him.
Question: The office of the Attorney General today is seen as a powerless entity. People believe it is a diluted version of what your predecessor held. Do you think this will affect the effectiveness of your work as the AG?
Answer: There is misconception perpetuated by lack of information regarding the roles of the Attorney General. The truth of the matter is that the Constitution has only transferred a mere department from the State Law Office and that is the former Department of Public Prosecutions. But I can tell you that I have a lot of work here, in fact, more than enough. The AG is a member of the Cabinet, a Member of Parliament, sits in the boards of over 30 parastatals; the Central Bank, Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Ports Authority just to name but a few. Further to that, the AGâs office is in charge of the registries. You know that the Registrar General is responsible for registration of companies, civil marriages, partnerships and business names. Then look at the drafting of all laws and subsidiary legislations, custody of international treaties, civil litigation and legal advisory. The list is endless.
But the holder of the office previously enjoyed the security of tenure, which apparently you do not have now?
Security of tenure has nothing to do with 95 per cent of the AGâs work as provided for in the Constitution. That power has very little effect in determining whether the AG will fail to give independent advice to remain in the job for a longer period. No politician will be expecting the AG to give him the wrong advise. I think it will be appreciated that if you have an efficient and technically sound, AG then you should be happy that you have an asset in Government and not a liability.
You are just coming in at a transitional season. Are you not worried that you may have difficulties getting into the next system now that it is clear there will be a change of regime in just about one year?
I am looking at a time when the office of the AG will totally be disassociated with politics so that it becomes more of a technocratâs office. If this happens there will be no any other criteria of finding an occupant other than competence.
The retired AG has for years been following the Anglo Leasing cases alongside several other cases involving huge scandals in which millions were lost, what are you going to do about this?
We will continue to pursue those cases with the intention of finalising them. The AG has powers to pursue remedies against perpetrators of corruption. We will do our best to ensure everything we are able to do is done.
There are fears that you are so much inclined to powerful individuals in Government that your arrival at the AGâs office may not really bring the much-anticipated changes that Kenyans are expecting?
Do I deserve to be in this office? I do. I have practised law for 27 years. I have consistently championed for the correct values. I stand for the rule of law. I have advised several clients from across the political divide. I have done my work professionally in practice. I believe these are the qualities that the Government required for this job. Even the appointing authority needed just the same qualities.
The previous indication given when you were first nominated for this position is that your appointment was to demonstrate to the UN Security Council that the Kenyan Government was ready to handle the International Criminals Court cases against six Kenyans, three who are now at The Hague.
I have heard that in the streets too. However, I would want to say that the Kenyan Government supports the ICC process. The only issue that has come up is whether Kenya as a country should have the primary responsibility of prosecuting the individuals accused of the sort of crimes we see in the charges at The Hague. My predecessor advised that the Kenya Government should pursue the possibility of prosecuting the cases here but the court has rejected that.
Attempts by the Government to challenge the admissibility of the cases have been badly defeated, how do you intend to deal with this issue now?
As at now, I consider it premature to decide the next course of action.
What changes are you planning to initiate at the State Law Office to try and change perceptions of the public on this office?
The AGâs office is a law firm. It is a law firm whose exclusive client is the Government and the public. It is the largest law firm in the country with 1,200 workers. I want to manage this law firm efficiently. When is the last time you heard that the Government had won a case against constructors suing for this or that? Probably not. But now I want to promise you we are going to win cases and save the State from unnecessary losses.
You may just walk into remnants of the advocates of status quo right in your office, because only Amos Wako has left but everybody else who worked with him is here.
I intend to lead from the front. I want to inculcate a culture of professionalism. First I am going to start by spending a lot of time with staff here so they can tell me where the problem lies. In fact, next week on Friday, I am meeting all the over 400 State counsel. I want to have dialogue with them so that we can agree on how we are going to work because I have a vision that must be achieved.
The man you are replacing in this office always had multiple legal opinions on every single issue the Government sought his advice on. How will you be different?
A I think that every professionals have their own peculiar ways of addressing certain challenges. I canât speak for Amos Wako but my way of dealing with legal issues is to be honest, candid, forthright and truthful so that my clients can make rightful decisions.
Your predecessor is believed to have performed below average, what can we expect from you?
When my time to leave this office comes, I want to be remembered as the AG who transformed the chamber into one that is competent, efficient and reliable institution that serves both the Government and the public.