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Day lawyers Mwenesi, Muite faced off over Kanu rule


Lawyer Stephen Mwenesi. [Angela Maina, Standard]

In the run-up to the reintroduction of multiparty democracy in Kenya, lawyer Steve Mwenesi was the director of legal and international affairs of Kanu, the ruling and only party at the time.

A zealous defender of the party, Mwenesi took the experience he garnered at the Attorney General chambers, under Amos Wako, to Kanu's KICC headquarters.

On June 15 and 16, 1990, the International Commission of Jurists (Kenya chapter) held a seminar on the administration of justice at Safari Park hotel and invited Mwenesi to speak on the role of the party.

If they thought he would cow down and go against Kanu, they were mistaken. Instead, Mwenesi turned the tables on the lawyers present, accusing them of adding little to the development of society.

"There is a dearth of legal intellectual capital being injected into the Kenya economy and politics by those most qualified to provide it," he submitted.

He said Kanu was very concerned about the "barrage of complaints" about the injustice committed by advocates against their clients, including eating clients' money. He said advocates could not afford to shout loudly about rule of law when they are failing society themselves.

"Kanu's principles of each being mindful of the welfare of the other are also applicable to legal practice in Kenya," he declared, decrying lawyers' propensity to bring "misery and suffering" to Kenyans.

Choosing his words carefully, Mwenesi said Kanu was committed to the principle that the destiny of Kenya lay with the people of Kenya.

Heavily quoted the previous Kanu manifestoes of 1960, 1963, 1969, 1979 and 1983. They were all resounding in their reiteration of Kanu's commitment to rule of law and viable constitutional democracy. Mwenesi also underscored Kanu's commitment to the independence of the Judiciary, with a rider that "there shall be nobody other than the president who shall be above the law."

"I have found it necessary to give this historical review because many of us have the tendency to doubt Kanu's bona fides when we say we are pledged to build a nation founded on justice," he said.

He concluded by stating that freedom, rights and duties cannot exist within the concept of "undiluted democracy." He urged all lawyers to "join together with Kanu to build a truly Kenyan, democratic nation."

Later, lawyer Paul Muite issued a rejoinder to Mwenesi's paper, asking the party to restore the security of tenure for judges, accept a free press, end the monopoly of power, close room for dictatorship and reintroduce multiparty democracy.

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