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Ruto will be the loser if he defies court orders on the housing levy

 President William Ruto. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

That obedience is better than sacrifice is a biblical truth recorded in 1 Samuel 15:22. President Ruto’s promise to defy court orders, if he meant it, will open a Pandora’s box for civil disregard of the rule of law.

Politically, it will be less costly for the President to align his policies with the law than to kick against the goads of the people’s Constitution. It takes less energy to obey and a lot more to mount a resistance against any law - whether of nature or men.

When the housing levy went through Parliament under the Finance Bill 2022, experts warned the President that the Bill would be highly susceptible to litigation, because that was not new.

During the second term of Uhuru’s regime, we learnt that any government policy that doesn’t meet the constitutional threshold is susceptible to a court injunction.

No judge is ready to make rulings which cannot stand the test of time and integrity in this age of openness.

Therefore, politically speaking, it could have been easier for Kenya Kwanza government to make necessary adjustments to the Bill to comply and align with the Constitution’s requirements. Such a step would give President Ruto more political ‘Bonga’ points as it would stamp his commitment to protecting the Constitution.

President Ruto has a golden chance that Uhuru did not have - he can rectify the housing levy policy, make requisite adjustments and clothe it with a “shalom” garment for smooth implementation.

The President must ignore anyone who advises otherwise, for they are not honest with him.

During President Uhuru and Raila Odinga’s BBI drive, lawyers in favour of impunity pulled some justifications. They even said that law is a servant of politics —which made sense in their wisdom.

What they did not tell President Uhuru is that the government can have its way because it has absolute power, but when time came politics unleashed its arrogance — politics is never faithful to one master, forever.

As I said before, the biblical King Rehoboam fell because he rejected the advice of elders and instead consulted the young men within his circle who were bent on massaging his ego.

President Ruto should commit to correcting the mistakes that fell his predecessor, former President Uhuru Kenyatta. Apart from committing to outperform the former government, Dr Ruto should be an excellent student to learn from its mistakes.

Defying court orders will open Pandora’s box within his administration and leave an egg of autocracy on his face. If the President is against the courts, who will abide by the rule of law? Will we not find ourselves in the quagmire of anarchy?

Autocracy arises when a monarch (Queen or King) or a dictator decides not to be accountable to anyone or any system of checks and balances. An autocrat defies the Constitution, court system, the fourth estate, and their advisers.

Since Kenya is not a monarch, the only trap that awaits any president who decides to defy court orders is that of a dictatorship. Therefore, when he says he will defy court orders, the President is promising to trend on a murky ground.

The justification that the Judiciary is being corrupted does not hold water - as CJ Martha Koome defended, there are legal mechanisms for the President to clean up the corrupt civil servants; including in the judicial system through the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

In modern democracies, there is no justification for any ruler to disregard the Constitution they swear to defend unless they are out to drive a country into lawlessness.

Finally, the ruling threatening to topple Ruto’s housing levy is a path this country walked before - the BBI. President Ruto can make necessary adjustments so that the levy doesn’t discriminate against persons in formal employment or provide an above-board justification for it to align with Articles 27, 201 of the Constitution as Kenya’s High Court advised.

Truth be told, if he defies court orders, which he has the power to do, he will lose badly.

-Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer at Kabarak University

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