Civil society accuses judges of derailing reforms

By Rawlings Otieno

A section of the civil society has accused High Court judges of being a hindrance to judicial reforms.

The groups also want Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to restore public confidence in the vetting process.

Meeting under the Jukwaa La Katiba, the National Civil Society Congress (NCSC) said the judges have been keen on derailing the vetting of judges and magistrates.

“Judges are fast becoming a hindrance to judicial reforms. Judges are deliberately misinterpreting the Constitution and making nonsense of the vetting process. Kenyans wanted all the judges and magistrates to pack and go,” said Odhiambo.

Speaking during a press briefing at a Nairobi hotel on Sunday, NCSC president Morris Odhiambo said interference by the judges in the Magistrate Vetting Board’s work would erode public trust in the Judiciary ahead of the next General Election.

The Constitution in the Sixth Schedule in Article 23 (2) states that a removal or a process leading to the removal of a judge shall not be subject to the question in, or review by any court. The group argues that the judicial authority is derived from the people as per article 159 (1), and should be exercised by the courts and tribunals according to the Constitution, saying the people desired an effective vetting process.

Regained confidence

The activists said the ruling by the High Court overturning the decision of the Vetting Board was a slap in the face of Kenyans, who had regained confidence in the Judiciary following a wave of reforms.

“The Vetting Board, in its wisdom, saw judges Riaga Omollo, Samuel Bosire, Joseph Nyamu and Emmanuel O’Kubassu and Jeanne Gacheche unfit to serve,” said Odhiambo.

The board has power to inquire into the suitability of judges who were in office when the new Constitution came into force, with a view to determining if they are suitable to continue serving.

Attorney General Githu Muigai had indicated that he would appeal the ruling of the High court judges.