Myriad challenges face Chief Justice David Maraga as he takes over crucial Chief Justice role

Chief Justice David Maraga takes the oath of office at State House, Nairobi, during a ceremony witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday. Justice Maraga takes over from Dr Willy Mutunga. (PHOTO: PSCU)

Restoring public confidence in the Judiciary is one of the challenges facing David Maraga as he assumes the office of Chief Justice.

Justice Maraga, who was sworn in yesterday, will be required to deal with a wide range of issues affecting the country including corruption entrenched in many State institutions, including the Judiciary itself.

Clad in the traditional red robe and white wig, Maraga entered his new chambers with the confidence of a man aware of the daunting task ahead of him. He chose not to use the new attire his predecessor, Willy Mutunga, had introduced.

Maraga was also quick to acknowledge the task ahead was not easy and that he would need the support of all stakeholders as well as Judiciary staff to overcome the challenges. 

"I am aware of the task ahead and I know I cannot do it as an individual. We need to work together," Maraga said as he was ushered into his new chambers after the swearing-in ceremony at State House, Nairobi.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who witnessed Maraga's swearing in, underscored the need for all arms of government to work together for the good of the country.

"Kenyans yearn for a country where democracy and the rule of law reign. Citizens want a transparent, accountable and responsive government and this can only be achieved if all arms of government live up to the standards set out in the Constitution," Uhuru said.

"This also means the courts must live up to people's expectations. The law must serve public interest and our jurisprudence must fulfill legitimate public aspirations," he added.

"Institutions of justice must help us deliver a society that is more efficient, with the ability to create prosperity for all and a more inclusive nation. As you take your place as the head of the Judiciary, as one entrusted with the heavy burden of High Office, I look forward to a fruitful and harmonious engagement between the Executive and the Judiciary."

There is no doubt Kenyans have high expectations of the new CJ as echoed by Attorney General Githu Muigai when he was welcomed in the Supreme Court during a brief ceremony presided over by Justice Mohammed Ibrahim.

The AG noted that the time had come for the Judiciary to take seriously all the concerns that other arms of government and the public had raised.

"The JSC has no doubt it selected the right person for the job; one who is able to give the Judiciary a deeper sense of purpose. We have heard many sentiments including from the President, which should be taken seriously as we work to move the Judiciary to the next level," said Prof Muigai.

The Judiciary was on the receiving end during an accountability summit at State House, Nairobi, where it was accused of being the weakest link in the fight against corruption.

President Kenyatta, the AG and a host of other State agencies pointed fingers at the Judiciary for stifling the war on graft.

"One wonders what goes wrong when over 60 corruption cases are brought to court and only three are concluded in six months," he said.

Maraga will also face cartels that, to a large extent, dictate how judges determine cases.

The judge had acknowledged the existence of corruption and cartels in the Judiciary during his interview and vetting but vowed to end their reign.

"Cartels will not find it easy under my watch. We will create a hotline number for the public to file complaints and expand the Ombudsman's office to be headed by a judge to enable it to investigate complaints against senior judicial officers," said Maraga.

Another headache will be the Supreme Court, which he will head as president. At the time Mutunga left in June, the court was a divided house with two opposing camps.