Intimidating lawyers in Kenya is unacceptable


The brutal murder of Lawyer Willy Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri whose decomposed bodies were found on July 1, 2016 stashed in sacks, in River Ol Donyo Sabuk in Machakos County, is one example where Kenyan citizens have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

The mutilated bodies of the trio are examples of extra-judicial killings becoming the norm rather than the exception. It is disheartening to note that we have lost all respect for the sanctity of human life.

These violent murders remind me of John Ruganda’s depiction in his book, The Floods, where the State has created killing fields, killing squads and people whose aim is to exterminate anybody who opposes them with ruthless abandon. Violence is usually deployed as a strategy to deal with enemies; real and imagined.

The forms of violence range from physical, verbal and psychological and the most surprising thing is that the brutality and violence are even extended to dead bodies.

The dehumanisation of dead bodies by the killers, while it is meant to depict the loathing the killers had for their victims, is also meant to instil fear and send a chilling and cold message to sections of the populace.
In John Ruganda’s book, fear is clearly depicted when Kyeyune fishes out the dead body of a brigadier with three nails in his skull and genitals in his mouth.

This leads to lots of anxiety and fear in Kyeyune as he swears never to go fishing again. Kyeyune again discovers a human finger while eating fish.

This scares the hell out of him as he swears never to eat fish again. He declines the headman’s offer of fish brought to him by a fisherman. Kyeyune freezes with fear when he witnesses a massacre of the islanders in the rescue boat; he saw a dead brigadier rise from the water, claiming to be a fisher of men.

The murder of Lawyer Willy is meant to drive fear in the hearts of human rights lawyers. It is a message being sent to the lawyers who have constantly been questioning the manner people are killed or hacked to death without being given a fair hearing.

The oath of office of an advocate is to administer justice without fear or favour and it is the oath of office that this brutal killing is aimed at. It is aimed at telling lawyers: "Please busy yourself with birthday parties, attend weddings and socialise with your colleagues but don’t ever be heard shouting about people’s rights because those rights are the business of the State and its agents."

An advocate’s oath of office is sacrosanct and must be jealously guarded. In the discharge of the duties of his office, the lawyer exercises vast powers and has corresponding responsibilities. His right to appear for his client can only be questioned by the client.

His adversary cannot force him to prove his right to appear for his client, nor will the court do so except for special and peculiar cause. As a rule, his statements on behalf of his client before the court is taken as true because he is acting on instructions.

Courts must be able to rely upon counsel, and they do so, because the lawyer is acting as an officer of the court under the sanction and responsibilities of an official oath.

The oath of office of an advocate is so unique that when in 1865 the United States Congress attempted to take away Mr Garland's oath of office, the supreme court held that the office of an attorney was not an office created by Congress, and depending upon Congress for its continuance, but that an attorney was an officer of the court, holding his office during good behaviour, and could only be deprived of it for misconduct, ascertained and declared by the judgement of the court after opportunity to be heard had been afforded.

It was also held that the right to practice was at the pleasure of the court and not at the command of the legislature. It is a right of which he can only be deprived by the judgement of the court for moral or professional delinquency.

The message that therefore must go out to the harbingers of violence out to intimidate lawyers from taking up sensitive cases is that lawyers will continue carrying on their duties as envisaged in the law and will not be intimidated by acts of violence and murder.

Lawyers must be emboldened by the brutal death of Willy Kimani to uphold the oath office and stand for the truth and what is right. Lawyers must continue standing and speaking for their clients rights as our higher calling dictates and demands.