Handling presidential election case not easy, Mutunga tells Koome

Chief Justice Othman Thande, Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, Chief Justice Martha Koome and former Chief justice David Maraga during a book launch titled Beacons of Judiciary Transformation. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has told Chief Justice Martha Koome to prepare for a tough time in handling a presidential election petition should one be filed.

Dr Mutunga said handling a presidential election petition is one of the most divisive decisions for a Chief Justice “and even if King Solomon were to handle it, he would still be criticised”.

“Handling the presidential election petition is the most difficult that even if you get Solomon, he will be driven out of town,” he said.

Mutunga presided over the 2013 presidential election petition in which he alongside fudges Philip Tunoi, Jackton Ojwang, Mohamed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala and Njoki Ndungu affirmed the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The former CJ was speaking during the launch of his book, Beacons of Judiciary Transformation, at the University of Nairobi. The book is a collection of his speeches, writings and judicial opinions during his tenure as CJ between 2012 and 2016.

Mutunga reflected on the 2013 decision in which he said he received criticism and accolades in equal measure. “Someone even told me they would start calling me Chief Injustice,” said Mutunga. “But what got me into reflection is the thunderous reception I received at Kasarani Stadium when I went to swear-in President Kenyatta and I wondered what would happen if it were Kisumu or Kitui. They would have stoned me.”

He also talked of his frustrations in trying to streamline the Judiciary, including changing locks to some offices to kick out auditors who refused to listen to him.

Other speakers at the launch, Justice Koome and her predecessor Justice David Maraga, paid glowing tributes to Mutunga as the person who transformed the Judiciary.

Koome said the struggle the former CJ started to transform the Judiciary is on course and that her vision is to continue with the transformation.

“I have even been called by the Chief Justice of England asking about our experience. This shows that we have something to offer the world in terms of our experiences,” said Koome.

She added that with the foundation laid by Mutunga and Kenya’s progressive Constitution, there was no need to look elsewhere for solutions when there can be a local solution to every local problem.

Justice Maraga stated that when he succeeded Mutunga, he found the pillars of transformation had already been put in place.

Former Auditor-General Edward Ouko narrated the difficulties they had with Mutunga in heading the new institutions created by the 2010 Constitution and the resistance they faced from within.

“People wondered why Mutunga and I would leave high paying jobs and join the government. It was a difficult assignment changing the culture from within,” said Ouko.

Senior Counsel Paul Muite revisited their struggles with Mutunga during the Second Liberation and how they fought to have the Law Society of Kenya be voice of reason in the struggle for multi-party democracy.