When the dust kicked up by the ‘swearing-in’ of Raila Odinga as the ‘people’s president’ settles, one institution will stand tall among others.
That exultation of the Judiciary for standing up to an overbearing Executive and a pesky Legislature faced the severest of tests this week.
Senior members of the Executive chose to defy three court orders; to release two politicians arrested for administering the alleged oath on Mr Odinga and to restore TV signals of three of the country's leading stations- KTN News, NTV and Citizen (which remains off air) switched off for choosing to air the event against a supposed directive from the Executive.
A little background: in the aftermath of the annulment of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s electoral win in the August 8, 2017 elections, the Executive and the Jubilee Party hierarchy went at the Judiciary hammer and tongs, disparaging them as ‘Wakora Network’ (scoundrels) and promising to fix it.
President Uhuru Kenyatta subtly warned that his government, once re-elected, would deal with the Judiciary. The inference was clear. So was this the time of reckoning?
Thankfully, the Judiciary has stood firm. Its rigid refusal to assume a siege mentality in the face of vicious attacks by the other two arms of government is to say the least, admirable.
"To disobey a court order is not only a violation of the Constitution but also a dereliction of public duty," said Chief Justice David Maraga as he sought to shore up public confidence in the rule of law and warned that respect for the law is not optional, but a constitutional and civic obligation.
Separately, Judge Luka Kimaru stood out for his relentless pursuit for the rights of an accused person, in this case, the deported general of the outlawed NRM, Miguna Miguna.
Together with a vibrant media, an independent Judiciary has underpinned Kenya’s budding democracy, assailed on all sides by the self-righteous and self-preserving ruling elite. Most specifically, the Judiciary has been a refuge for the opposition and a besieged civil society.
But then challenges remain. The wheels of justice move ever too slowly for many. Reports of corruption and favouritism in the corridors of justice pour cold water on the efforts of those good judges. Actually, corruption feeds off the inefficiencies at the courts. All these work to make seeking justice tardy, expensive and ineffective, yet that should not be the case in the first place. Those are the problems that need fixing.
But for choosing to be on the right side of history, the Judiciary deserves plaudits.