Supreme Court judge Ojwang’ to retire after serving 16 years

Supreme Court Justice Jackton Boma Ojwang during the judgment on death penalty case at the Supreme Court. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
Supreme Court Judge Jackton Ojwang will retire in two months. 

Sources at the Judiciary say the senior judge has received instructions from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to go on terminal leave beginning January 5, 2020, as he awaits retirement in February.

Justice Ojwang (pictured) will retire after having served in the Judiciary for 16 years. And his retirement now sets the stage for succession at the top court.

Registrar confirms

Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi yesterday confirmed the judge will be retiring. “Justice Ojwang will retire in February,” said Ms Amadi. The Supreme Court will now be left with six judges.

His exit is expected to revive the antagonism between Chief Justice David Maraga and President Uhuru Kenyatta, who have previously clashed on the appointment of new judges.

In court documents, Uhuru has defended his silence in appointing 41 judges who were confirmed by JSC this year, much to the chagrin of the Chief Justice (CJ).

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The president has insisted that the Judiciary has enough judges and that some of the appointees have integrity queries.

“It is in the public domain that the government is currently rationalising budgets for the nation’s sustainability,” Uhuru said.

“For the purposes of financial prudence, it was necessary for the JSC to provide the bio-data of persons appointed to enable the State to plan on the allocations that will be spent on them.”

A ruling on the case will be delivered on February 6, 2020.

The relationship between the Judiciary, the Executive and Parliament has not been rosy.

In November this year, CJ Maraga sensationally claimed that he was aware of plans by unnamed State officials to kick him out.

The tough-talking Maraga said he would start boycotting State functions. This is after he claimed he suffered humiliation after being forced to access the VIP section through the backdoor during this year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations.

“They have been saying that the CJ must be removed from office before the end of this year, but I will not resign even if they push me to the wall,” Maraga said.

“I am not serving to please any cabinet secretary; I am here to serve the people.”

Dissenting voices

Ojwang’ and Justice Njoki Ndung’u were the only dissenting voices when they voted to reject the annulment of Uhuru’s win in the 2017 General Election. The two judges held that there was no enough evidence to invalidate the Kenyan presidential contest.

Ojwang’ exits the Judiciary months after a tribunal formed by Uhuru to investigate his conduct cleared him. The tribunal ruled the petition against the judge was filed irregularly and was unfair.

Chaired by Court of Appeal Judge Alnasir Visram, the tribunal also noted that JSC was in breach of the judge’s constitutional right to fair administrative action.

In its 148-page report to Uhuru, the tribunal painted a picture of a commission hell-bent on kicking out the judge.

For instance, the tribunal said JSC never bothered to visit a road in his rural home that was alleged to have been built by Governor Okoth Obado to influence Ojwang’.

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