Since the President and Deputy President expressed their dissatisfaction with the Judiciary’s rulings this past week, some people have been fainting and falling about, throwing self-righteous tantrums and working themselves into a histrionic lather.
This manufactured anger is disguised as arguments on the principle of the sanctity and independence of the Judiciary. But in truth, these rebukes by the ‘Crusaders of the Constitution’ are reeking of motive and hypocrisy.
The President’s remarks were conveniently interpreted to mean that, because he is the ‘unassailable’ Head of State, he is ready to order an air strike on the Supreme Court Building and blow the offending judges within to smithereens. The simple interpretation to the President's criticism of the Judiciary however is this: the Jubilee Party will unabashedly call the Judiciary out on their partiality and partisan leanings.
And in any case, if the argument is that the President is the almighty and powerful Head of State, are not ‘unfavourable’ court rulings a clear indicator that his power is limited to the Executive and he has no influence over the judicial arm of the government? Also, for purposes of clarity and quantification, what do these purported intimidation and threats look like?
Why hasn’t anyone articulated them? Why are the offended only making blanket statements of disapproval? If it were truly intimidation, would it not happen before, and not after the court rulings? These accusations of alleged ‘presidential blasphemy’ against the Judiciary are nothing but insincere rants and cheap shots. And I will tell you why.
First of all, it is what it is. Court rulings on matters pertaining the election appear not only consistently partisan, but also utterly irresponsible. The courts seem to be operating in a parallel universe, where the election is a faraway event and where the constitutional stipulations regarding what must be done are a figment of our collective imaginations. The Judiciary seems to have no qualms about potentially plunging the country into a constitutional crisis. And yes, the court does appear beholden to NASA. It is particularly suspicious that some members of the Bench constituted to hear these electoral cases are said to have familial relationships with interested parties.
Secondly, public confidence in the Judiciary is seeping away. It does not take a genius to discern the pattern taken in the recent rulings by the court. And this should be fearlessly exposed, particularly by the man who is constitutionally invested with the collective will of the people; the President himself.
And still on public confidence, the representatives of the Judiciary at the highest levels, including the Chief Justice, are proving to be politically naïve - too eager to pronounce themselves on matters that are in court. The Justices are clamouring for the limelight and acting like politicians. When the Chief Justice, in particular, spies an opportunity to shut up, he should grab it with both hands and hang on to it for dear life.
Thirdly, the President's criticism of the Judiciary, if anything, demonstrates the Judiciary’s independence from the Executive arm. Otherwise, they would not dream of passing rulings that the Executive would find even mildly irritating.
Finally, disapproval of judicial rulings by the Executive is a common occurrence all over the world without so much as an eyebrow raised. Otherwise, it is tantamount to conferring infallibility upon the Judiciary. And in effect, turning them into ‘small gods’. When President George W Bush responded that he did not agree with the American Supreme Court’s decision giving Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detentions, the country did not come to a standstill. The Supreme Court did not scamper and quake in their boots because the Executive arm was disapproving of their judgement. Similarly, when President Trump slammed the American courts for their discomfort with proposed travel restrictions targeting specific countries, the Statue of Liberty did not topple over. This over-dramatic Kenyan response is obviously political, since in any other realm, criticising the courts, even by the Executive is a humdrum occurrence.
As Aristotle said: “Anyone can be angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time for the right purpose, that is not within everyone’s power, and it is not easy.” This self-righteous anger about the President’s criticism of the Judiciary is completely wasted and misdirected. And it takes away from the real issue. In my view, this anger should instead be directed at the elements who want to derail and disrupt the election.
—The writer is a PhD candidate in Political Economy at SMC University and a Research Fellow at Fort Hall School of Government. [email protected]