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Chief Justice job: Paul Andrew Kongani Udoto dares but fails to conquer

By Kamau Muthoni | September 6th 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Paul Andrew Udoto Kongani a carpenter and law student arrive at supreme court today on 5/September for vetting on positions of Chief Justice. He eventually bowed out of the race because he did not meet the minimum requirement for the job. (PHOTO: EDWARD KIPLIMO./ STANDARD)

A law student was interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission for 31 minutes for the Chief Justice's post.

Paul Andrew Kongani Udoto Kongani (pictured) eventually bowed out of the race because he did not meet the minimum requirement for the job.

The student, who is also a carpenter, addressed Judicial Service Commission over his lack of the required 15 years experience at 9.15am yesterday.

The 39-year-old man wanted JSC to consider whether he should continue or not before going ahead with the interview.

"I want the panel to clarify its position because I got two letters, first on rejection which I never contested and another one requiring that I should appear today," Mr Udoto said.

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Udoto's address lasted 14 minutes after which JSC acting chair Margret Kobia interjected and asked him to allow Justice Aggrey Muchelule to ask him questions.

The question and answer session, which was entirely on experience lasted 17 minutes.

Judge Muchelule asked: "Are you saying that you have withdrawn. You know if you are going to be the Chief Justice, you will be the head of the Supreme Court and the head of other judges? Are you qualified?"

He answered: "Based on the requirement of 15 years experience indicated, I do not qualify for the job. You have based the qualification on Blacks Law Dictionary which states that experience is about work."

Udoto, clad in a black suit, a white shirt and a navy blue tie with white polka dots, sat calmly as the judge questioned him.

The 2011 Moi University law school graduate said that the law should be changed to factor in young people. His conclusion about the top Judiciary job is that no one under 40 years will get it.

Most Kenyans complete secondary school at the age of 18. A law degree takes four years while a diploma in law, which enables one to be admitted to the bar, takes three years.

For one to qualify for the CJ post, they should have at least 15 years experience as a distinguished academic or such experience in other relevant legal field.

After Udoto agreed with the judge that he was not qualified for the job, Prof Kobia said the panel could not raise more questions on his suitability.

While other applicants had bulky CVs that read like books, Udoto's was only four pages. He says, passion to serve the public gave him the courage to apply for the plum job.

"I believe the Supreme Court ought to have a mix of old people and the young as courts serve people of all ages."

He took 11 years to complete his law degree because he could not afford the fees, and at one point had to drop out.

His father (Mzee Wawire Kongani) died in 2004 before he graduated and he had a huge fee balance.

"I had a fee balance of about Sh250,000. My mother (Petronilla Nelima) could only raise Sh5,000," he said during an interview.

He shelved his dream to be a lawyer and started a carpentry shop at Naburereya, Bungoma County with Sh600. He managed to save Sh300,000. In 2007, he enrolled to complete his law degree and graduated in 2011.

Chief Justice Paul Kongani Udoto Judicial Service Commission (JSC)
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