Beware! Court orders are not suggestions

Justice George Odunga at the Milimani Law Court on 29/3/18. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]
What started as a storm in a teacup has exploded into an ugly stain that will stick on the nation’s conscience for years to come. When the police arrested self-declared NRM general Miguna Miguna, they were just doing their job the way they know how. They initially wanted to grill him on the ‘illegal oathing’ at Uhuru Park on January 30. May be they had more reasons, but I highly doubt they knew what they were getting into and the hullabaloo that would follow. If they knew, then they were unprepared and tactless. The whole episode has been mishandled and exposed the soft underbelly of Kenya’s officialdom.

No matter how this saga ends, someone got one big egg on their face. It is a huge blot they will carry with them as long as they are in public office. For how can you explain the humiliation meted out against a Kenyan by birth on his home soil, ostensibly, because he had denounced his citizenship? First of all, is there such a thing? All this was done in disregard for the rule of law, human decorum and legal discourse.

As we speak, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, Immigration Principal Secretary Gordon Kihalang’wa have been fined Sh200,000 each for contempt of court. The Government has indicated intention to appeal the sentence, but the damage has already been done. The three are the latest Lords of Impunity.

You see, as my friend rightly quipped, court orders are not suggestions. They are to be respected by every law-abiding citizen. You do as ordered then seek redress later. Failure to do so can only fuel anarchy. It is worse when those who ignore court orders are in high offices, because those individuals enjoy power given to them by the majority who are taxpayers and ordinary citizens. Should the three gentlemen have their April salaries deducted, it is still Kenyan taxpayers who will pick the tab for the Sh600,000 fine!

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Still, the cockiness of the three top officials reminds me of once powerful Nairobi Town Clerk Zipporah Mbesa Wandera. During her heyday, Zippy, as she was fondly known then, was the “Untouchable City Sheriff.” Many men quaked in her presence and her word was law. However, in 1999, she was facing corruption charges in court. At one point she disregarded a High Court order and she was cited for contempt. She appealed the contempt charges at the Court of Appeal and was sure she would get away with it or at worse get a slap on the wrist since she had powerful people behind her. But when she stepped into the courtroom, the Court of Appeal judges were waiting for her like what my villagers say of hot ugali. She was tossed into prison and had to cool her heels on the cold floor as the court cases went on. Nairobians could hardly come to terms with the once fiery ‘Zippy’ now extremely humbled and talking to her kin and lawyers through the bars. It’s true that the wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.

And before I sign off, what do you make of this quote from the one and only John Khaminwa, veteran lawyer and respected custodian of legal history: “It pains me as a lawyer when Miguna looks into my eyes and asks what I have done for him. I have nothing to show when all the efforts and the numerous orders we have obtained to secure his release are not being respected.”

It is difficult not to shed a tear! But hope springs eternal, He (Jesus Christ) has risen today. Have a very blessed Easter, good people!

- The writer is Revise Editor at The Standard, Weekend Editions. [email protected]

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