It is easy to get lost in the long-running drama pitting the Department of Immigration against lawyer and political activist Miguna Miguna.
For nearly two years since police officers hauled him out of his house, held him incommunicado, charged and then deported him, Dr Miguna has used the courts to get back his travel documents, but in vain.
Miguna fled Kenya at the height of a crackdown on the proponents of political pluralism in 1988. He holds a Canadian passport. The 2010 Constitution provides for dual citizenship, which means Miguna does not have to renounce his Canadian passport.
Despite assurances from the Immigration department – following another court order – that Miguna was free to come back, things took a new twist on Tuesday after Air France barred him from boarding a Nairobi-bound flight, citing “a request from Kenyan authorities”.
The feud speaks of a deeper problem in government. It projects a simmering power play between the Executive and the Judiciary.
Miguna’s deportation – on orders from Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i – was contested successfully in court.
In fact, the Citizenship and Immigration Act, Section 31 (1) (2), which was quoted in Dr Matiang’i’s deportation memo, does not exist in the statutes.
Needless to say, the flagrant disregard of court orders is not good for the rule of law and good governance. All democratic societies – including Kenya – abide by certain rules that help create order and decency. When those laws are abused (especially) by those who ought to uphold them, there is a real risk of a total breakdown of law and order.
By blatantly disregarding court orders and even lying about the actual state of things, the officers are setting the wrong precedence.
They are propagating impunity; that the powerful are above the law. It is also tempting to conclude that such wanton disregard of the law is meant to corrode and question the standing of Judiciary in the country.
Despite its faults, the Judiciary remains the refuge for justice and fairness for the weak and powerless. It has stood up against roguish politicians and power-drunk bureaucrats keen on bending the arc of history toward lawlessness, intolerance and injustice.
Since 2013, there have been no less than seven incidences where top government officials have disobeyed court orders.
In his Jamhuri Day speech last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged that the respect for the rule of law binds us all, and that it is not optional. Kenyans expect no less from the officers in his administration.
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