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Lawyers divided over boycott to protest government defiance of court orders

By Standard Team | Published Fri, February 16th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 15th 2018 at 23:19 GMT +3
NASA lawyers acting on behalf of Miguna Miguna celebrate at a Milimani high court after the court found Inspector General of police and his DCI counterpart in contempt of court. [Photo by George Njunge /Standard]

Lawyers were yesterday divided over plans to shun courts to protest Government's disregard of court orders.

While some lawyers supported the boycott called by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), others defied the directive to wear yellow ribbons as a sign of protest.

This has been worsened by wrangles and deep-rooted divisions among the LSK council members, who have rarely spoken in one voice for the past two years they have been in office.

Yesterday, lawyers in Kisumu marked the Yellow Ribbon Week with a reminder to the State to respect the rule of law and uphold the doctrine of separation of powers.

The protesting lawyers threatened to file the first public litigation suit against the State and its officers who disobeyed court orders

LSK officials said the Constitution provides clearly that the sovereign power of the people shall be vested in the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

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"This reflects the democratic tenet that if power is concentrated in the hands of a few, it is prone to abuse," said LSK's Western boss Sam Onyango.

He added: "This provision was enacted into law to help safeguard against arbitrary misuse of power and mal-administration yet this is what is being witnessed today."

The lawyers claimed the government had defied the independence of the Judiciary and accused the Executive of behaving as if courts are its branch and Parliament its extension.

The lawyers, who spoke at the Kisumu law courts, said: "It is unfortunate to see blatant disregard for court orders by State and public officers."

"For a government whose legitimacy is vindicated by a court, it is ironical to it disregard to the rule of law," said LSK member Joseph Oduor.

Former East African Law Society of Kenya President Aggrey Mwamu stressed the need for separation of functions of the three arms of government to avoid one interfering with or assuming the roles of the other.

But Nairobi lawyer Benard Muriuki said it would not be possible to boycott court proceedings, given some had waited for long for their cases to be heard.

He accused the LSK leadership of failing to consult members before taking the decision.

“We should not boycott courts but demonstrate against Government impunity. It will be easier to deliver a petition to the AG as a sign of protest as opposed to boycotting courts which will be like punishing the Judiciary and innocent litigants,” said Muriuki.

Some lawyers said they would not take part in the boycott, accusing LSK of ambushing them. Others said they did want to be associated with the protest because it had taken a political angle.

LSK president Isaac Okero, last week, notified members of a week-long court boycott, starting Monday, to agitate for respect of court orders.

Instead deported

This came after the Government defied orders to reopen three TV stations shut down over the swearing-in of NASA leader Raila Odinga. It also defied an order to produce lawyer Miguna Miguna in court and instead deported him.

However, LSK suspended the boycott to yesterday to allow consultations. Sources said the boycott was called off after differences on implementation.

“LSK council is divided and normally take sides on issues which require collective agreement. They have allowed themselves to be partisan. That is why it will be hard to implement the boycott,” said Charles Omanga.

And when he appeared before Justice Chacha Mwita, John Khaminwa said he supported the boycott and would continue wearing the yellow ribbon until the Government committed to obeying court orders.

Kelvin Mbogo said: "The Government will only respect the courts if LSK is firm."