Nothing causes much discomfiture as when officials of the Judiciary are suspected of engaging in malfeasance.
The Judiciary stands out among the three arms of the Government because of its role as a bulwark against the excesses of the other two; the Executive and the Legislature.
It is for this reason then that the Judiciary, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion at all times. Claims that officers of the court have engaged in unbecoming conduct are quite alarming.
When he took over two years ago, Chief Justice David Maraga bemoaned the return of corruption in the corridors of justice and regretted that 10 per cent of judicial staff – judges, magistrates, clerks- were giving the Judiciary a bad name.
The corruption erodes confidence and trust in the Judiciary as the arbiter in disputes and undermines the unity and progress of country.
Indeed, our democracy, (any democracy) needs a properly functioning Judiciary to thrive.
Experience from the 2007/08 post-election violence following a disputed presidential election results is that the lack of trust in the Judiciary can tear apart the country.
Then, PNU’s President Mwai Kibaki had been declared winner by the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya. ODM’s Raila Odinga cried foul. The PNU side then asked the ODM side to go to court if they felt aggrieved. What followed was an eruption of violence that led to the death of 1,300 people and the displacement of half-a-million people.
Violence ceased with the adoption of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008 that among others created the roadmap to the 2010 Constitution. Among the many things that the new Constitution sought to fix was rot in the Judiciary. One of the radical changes was the creation of a Supreme Court, which among other things, presides over disputes at a presidential election as happened last year.
Nobody wants a repeat of 2007 crisis. The pain and the trauma from the death and destruction have not gone away for many Kenyans. Indeed to many, elections signal a dark moment for them.
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But the quiet that followed the annulment of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election in the August 2017 General Election, if nothing else, was a confirmation of restored confidence.
By twice accepting the outcome of a court process, the country (and most significantly, the political class) demonstrated to the world our faith in institutions that underpin our democracy.
That should be nurtured and protected.
On the matter of Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu Mwilu, she might yet be declared innocent of all the charges she faces. When all the evidence have been adduced, it is up to the court to declare her guilt or innocence.
Yet it is the damage this does to the institution that lingers long. Though human, even a whiff of scandal is abomination for officials of the Judiciary. In fact, the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji put it succinctly yesterday when he said, “the justice system only works if lawyers, prosecutors, magistrates and judges are fair and just.”
For a very long time, the institution of the Judiciary had been associated with sleaze and slander. And from the 2007 crisis, it is evident that not even the Justice Aaron Ringera-led radical surgery of 2003 – where 22 judges of the Court of Appeal and 82 magistrates were shown the door-could change the perception that the scales of justice tips to the highest bidder and save the country needless deaths and destruction.
And so yesterday’s events though unprecedented, are also heartbreaking.
In fact, from the actions that preceded the arrest and arraignment of Ms Mwilu, it was clear that the DPP was walking a tight rope.
Yet despite that, Mr Haji and George Kinoti the DCI, should be encouraged to keep digging if only to root out the corrupt elements eating away at the soul of our nation for frankly speaking, losing the Judiciary will come at a very high price.
And because of that, the Chief Justice David Maraga must move quickly to initiate confidence-building initiatives that ensures that confidence and trust in the Judiciary is restored. The belief in our courts to effectively deliver swift justice should be guarded at all costs.