What started out as a lunchtime stroll for High Court Judge Justice Said Chitembwe jerked, in minutes, into a spectacle that saw cops pounce, force him into fellow judge’s office followed by a three-hour ordeal.
An ambitious judicial officer, Justice Chitembwe recently lost his bid to become a Chief Justice, having had served the judiciary since April 2009. His accomplice in yesterday’s ordeal, Justice Aggrey Muchelule, is among the group of judges whose appointment to the Court of Appeal was controversially vetoed by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“It was a day like any other. I was done with my files and was taking a break. I decided to go pick Justice Muchelule so that we can walk over for lunch at the lounge upstairs,” Justice Chitembwe told me.
A relative had just visited him and was accompanied by a student acquaintance. As they strolled out, and the acquaintance heard that he was passing by Muchelule’s, she requested to come along to say hello.
“She left us in the office, catching up ahead of the lunch. I rose to leave so that he can join me at the Lounge, but as soon as I stepped outside, I found the lady who had just left us, being pushed back.”
“The people who were pushing her introduced themselves as police officers. We were pushed back to the office, and before we knew what was happening, they were all over, searching….”
Muchelule stepped aside and watched over his hallowed chambers turned upside down, every nook and cranny. They proceeded to Justice Chitembwe’s chambers nearby and ransacked it.
“In the end, they gave out a search certificate. And they found nothing. The lady acquaintance who was pushed back into Hon Muchelule’s chambers had some few dollars with her, but she had them with her….” Justice Chitembwe explained.
All this time, the Judge says the cops never said a thing about the nature of the complaint, or the identity of the complainant. They also did not confiscate anything from them, despite taking an inventory.
“We were all in the dark. We recorded statements, but only on the events of the day because that is all they seemed interested in. And we left for our respective homes,” the Judge said.
The statements were recorded at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). Justice Chitembwe says the cops told them that they were not under arrest, no cuffs were swung their way.
“We recorded statements without knowing who is the complainant, what is the complaint all about, and left. They said in case they require us again they would let us know,” Chitembwe said.
When we reached out to Justice Muchelule, he confirmed that indeed he had gone to DCI to record a statement and left.
“I recorded a statement, that’s all they wanted. Right now I am at home,” a rather composed Muchelule told the Standard.
Justice Chitembwe picked issues on police’s failure to offer information that would have enabled them to understand the complaint against them. But he also complained that the officers did not bring with them official search warrants:
“Unfortunately, that is what has become of our country. Something like this happens, and your name is tarnished forever.”
In August 2018, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, with her office facing the Office of Chief Justice, was fished out of the Supreme Court building, handcuffed and hauled at a lower court in the evening. Her case is still ongoing.
Muchelule is a former member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the employer of judges and other judicial officers. JSC has always insisted any complaints against judges and judicial officers ought to be lodged with them for processing and eventual actioning
Yesterday, there was no word from either the Office of Chief Justice or the JSC on the circumstances surrounding the raid on the chambers of the two judicial officers.
In April when he appeared before JSC interviews for the CJ position, Chitembwe wept while recounting past charges against him when he served as company secretary National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
"It’s the wearer of the shoe that knows, but mine cannot be a bad example because we were heard in one year and the magistrate ruled there was no case to answer," he said while referring to the issue of granting of bail.
At the interviews, Chitembwe claimed he had, over the years, overworked himself to the point of becoming diabetic.
Justice Chitembwe rose to fame in April 2016 when she allowed an appeal of a man convicted of defiling a 13-year-old using very strong words:
“The circumstances are that the complainant behaved like an adult. She left her parents’ home and went to the appellant house purposely to have sex. The appellant should not be condemned for the voluntary acts of the complainant. The complainant was enjoying the relationship,” he ruled.
Drawing from the circumstances of a minor who kept popping into the appellant’s home, continued to have sex and went home, Justice Chitembwe said those “cannot be circumstances of a victim of defilement.”
“It is PWI who behaved like an adult and engaged in sexual intercourse… the relationship continued for quite a long time to the extent that age became a non-issue,” he concluded.
In the April interview, she defended his judgement as a “practical application of the law.”