Elections 2017

CJ Maraga, judges snub President Uhuru's Parliament address

The room which was reserved for the judges at Parliament buildings on Tuesday 12/09/17 [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The judges of the Supreme Court failed to attend President Uhuru Kenyatta's address to the joint sitting of Parliament on Tuesday.

While legislators allied to the National Super Alliance (NASA) had publicly stated that they would not attend the function – a routine address made at the start of every Parliament - it was the absence of the judges of the highest court that stood out as the calendar of the 12th House was set rolling.

All indications were that the judges of the court, who have suffered attacks from the President and his Jubilee team since the historical annulling of the presidential election, were to attend the traditional event.

Committee rooms seven and nine, normally reserved for the two National Assembly watchdog committees - the Public Investments Committee and the Public Accounts Committee - had been reserved and clearly marked as meant to hold the highest judicial officers before they are ushered into the Speaker's gallery together with other dignitaries.

Six parliamentary orderlies had been assigned the courtesy duty of the judges. But the judges did not show up.

"We were waiting for them until when the President arrived. Maybe they communicated to higher authorities why they did not show up, but we have not been informed. It is a tradition of Parliament that judges of the highest court attend the function," said one of the officers assigned the task who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media on behalf of Parliament.

Inside the Speaker's gallery, where the judges were to sit during the address, their seats remained vacant until the orderlies made a quick re-arrangement to accommodate other dignitaries once it became obvious that the judicial officers would not attend.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi told The Standard that the Judiciary had been invited and that he did not know why the judges did not show up.

"I am reliably informed by the Clerk that they were invited. We always invite them, at least the Chief Justice and other judges for such functions. I do not know why they did not attend," said Muturi.

A source in the Judiciary told The Standard that the Supreme Court judges opted to stay away and instead write the much-awaited judgment of the presidential petition.

The source added that there was an official apology to State House explaining why the judges would not attend the President's address to the august House.

"They are under a lot of pressure to have the judgment ready. Considering that the event would take a whole day and they have to deliver on their promise, they could not attend. It is not a boycott," said the source.

The source also said the judges could have been keen to avoid the 2013 scenario where they were booed for attending the ceremony.

Never invited

"History has it that in 2013 they were booed by members of Parliament whereas the other side cheered because of the judgment. This scenario was likely to happen even today (yesterday)," the source said.

But chief Justice David Maraga's personal assistant Mundia Muchiri maintained that his boss was not invited to the function. He said perhaps the invite was sent to the Judiciary, but none was delivered to their office.

"I can speak on good authority and say that there is no invite that was sent to the CJ, unless it was sent generally to the Judiciary, which should not be the case. The Speaker should, as a matter of protocol, send the invite to the CJ, for if you do not invite the Chief Justice, then who else have you invited" asked Mr Muchiri.