Justice suffers when Executive, Judiciary trade barbs in public

The fiery exchange of words, finger pointing and escalation of hostilities between the Executive and the Judiciary does not inspire confidence in the administration of justice. It only makes for depressing news for thousands of Kenyans who have languished on the corridors of justice for years, waiting for their cases to be concluded. Kenyans have watched helplessly as their cases drag on in courts, holding back lives and potential investment.

Many have lost property, been denied an opportunity to enjoy what is rightfully theirs, or just kept away from conducting business since a magistrate or judge supposed to hear their cases could not do it in time because of being stretched. Petty offenders have also suffered for an inordinate period in custody due to shortage of judicial officers. This is unacceptable in a country that prides itself in having justice as the shield and defender.

The latest war of words between Chief Justice David Maraga and Attorney General Paul Kihara misses the bigger picture on what Kenyans expect from the two arms of government. The Judiciary should dispense justice expeditiously, fairly and timely. The Executive should implement policy guidelines and provide leadership. Why wouldn’t the two arms just work together and thrash out their differences without washing their dirty linen in public?

At first, Justice Maraga accused President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government of denying the Judiciary enough funding. He cited disrespect to his office by the presidency, especially during State functions.

In the latest public altercation, the failure to appoint 41 judges interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is at the centre of the conflict. This is unfortunate because the AG himself is a member of the JSC and whatever misgivings on any of the 41 candidates should be known through him. Why didn’t he reject the names during the interviews? Why can’t he advise the president and have the recruitment done afresh?

Still, we believe the matter could be handled amicably and not through the court of public opinion, where the CJ calls a presser to accuse the Executive, whose representative is the AG, who then comes out guns blazing and points an accusatory finger. The acrimony also just reminds of the promise to ‘revisit’ the Judiciary after the nullification of the August 8, 2017 presidential elections. Stop the wars and serve Kenyans.