DCJ Mwilu: I have never been this scared, but I’m going nowhere

Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu (pictured) has opened up on the paranoid life she has been living since the September 1, 2017 nullification of the presidential election results.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Standard, Mwilu said she had been condemned to a life of morbid fear, which has peaked in the last few months with strange cars trailing her and odd calls coming through.

With pictures of her two predecessors ominously hanging besides her, she tells a story of an isolated and targeted woman, one singled out to carry the burden of the 2017 decision on behalf of her colleagues and the country.

For her two predecessors -- Nancy Baraza and Kalpana Rawal -- dignified exits from the Judiciary were a distant rumour. While Baraza was hounded out by a zealous Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for pinching a guard, Rawal retired in ignominy of battling her employer over her actual retirement date.

But Mwilu, 58, says she won’t be pushed around and has no plans of leaving anytime soon.

Ridiculed on social media, shamed with a public arrest, and now facing JSC petition lodged by none other than the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, Mwilu is holding out strong.

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Solemn duty

“I discharge my duties diligently and I have upheld my solemn duty to defend and protect Kenya’s Constitution as one of the top judges in Kenya. Whether they kill me as they’ve been attempting to do, I’ll continue to discharge my duties as a judge without fear or favour.”

She talked of October 2017’s gun attack on her official car in which her driver was injured, the strange calls she has been receiving and the cars which have been trailing her. She said her life has since turned around.

“I am a devout Catholic. I used to drive myself to church. Then I started being driven to church by a driver and a bodyguard. Right now, I cannot even dare to church without the whole entourage of security and vehicles. I feel very, very scared these days,” she said.

At times, random people just call to rain insults on her person. And once in a while, like it happened few weeks ago, fake news of her critically falling ill or something else crop up.

So paranoid is she that during our interview, her bodyguards walked in to sit through lest this writer, a stranger to them and her, hurt her. Reluctantly, they left after she ordered them out but kept a close watch for the door.

“I have never been this scared in my life and yet besides taking the necessary caution and trusting God, there is little else I can do about it,” she said in a low, reflective tone.

When we asked her whether she has reported the fears to police, she thought about the question, and pausing in between, said she has made it known. She has however not filed a formal complaint with the police:

“I totally appreciate the role of police in our set up. And that is why I trust my bodyguards to keep me safe, and indeed they have. The fact of the matter is that it is quite a different matter to report to the same leadership that has demonstrated every wish to get me out.”

Mwilu believes her August 28, 2018 publicised arrest was calculated at inflicting maximum damage to her reputation. She cannot come to terms with the fact that her private commercial transactions and loans can be criminalised.

She said besides the national drama it caused, the arrest hurt her deeply, partly because two days later, she was supposed to speak to secondary school girls in a mentorship programme she had been running.

“When I called to cancel, I was told that the girls would hear none of it. But there was no way I was going to stand before them. Later, I was told security men camped there all through in a lorry apparently to offer me security, something they had not done in all the other mentorship programmes,” she said. She firmly believes the criminal charges she faced, and which have since been quashed by the High Court, have everything to do with the 2017 decision. But one thing troubles her most about it: Why her?

“Before September 1, who even knew me? Did you people in the media even know me? I remember when I was appointed, people were only relating me to some of my previous judicial pronouncements especially the one relating to polygamy…” she said.

People close to her blame the no-nonsense demeanor she put up at the petition hearings. She did not appear to suffer fools gladly. She came down hard on lawyers Fred Ngatia, Tom Macharia and Paul Muite on the matter of stray ballots.

“It was nothing personal. I was just doing my work. I do not skirt around issues. Whenever I see counsel going round in circles, I tell them as much. I do not consider this to be a vice. To the contrary, it is a virtue in the kind of work that I do,” Mwilu told Sunday Standard.

Still, others trace her problems to the narrative sold by the mystery 36 bloggers that she was the ringleader of the majority bench that overturned President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win.

Her eyes glistening, she roundly dismissed the idea, saying such a narrative fails to appreciate the solid credentials, experience and values of the majority bench.

“For that to hold, you would have to tell me how for heavens sake I would come to exert such undue influence, control and power over such independent and strong colleagues as the Chief Justice Maraga, Justice Lenaola or Justice Wanjala.”

Many battles

And as to the said meetings with NASA lawyers to “fix” the judgement, Mwilu said there was nothing of the kind.

“You will be surprised, some of these people I have been accused of meeting, I only used to see them on TV or from a distance in courts. Of course, I later came to meet some of them in my subsequent battles. The long and short of this is that our decision was not influenced by anyone. It was all decided in that courtroom, and it was live.”

She vowed that the sustained attack on her character will not slow her down, that she will fight the pending petition with all her might once served and that she will continue to discharge her mandate in accordance to the law.

“I cannot look at these things in isolation. No reasonable person would. But if they think all these things can shake my resolve and fidelity to the oath I took, they are gravely mistaken. You can threaten my personal security but not my resolve to do what is right,” she said.

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Philomena MwiluJudiciaryDeputy Chief Justice