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Judiciary 'radical surgery' haunts Ringera in Chief Justice interview

NAIROBI
By Kamau Muthoni | September 7th 2016
Justice Aaron Ringera at the Supreme Court when he went to be vetted Tuesday. [PHOTO: EDWARD KIPLIMO/STANDARD]

Justice Aaron Ringera was hard pressed to explain the conduct of a committee he chaired that implemented the 2003 Judiciary purge.

The judge, who is seeking to be the country’s Chief Justice, told the Judicial Service Commission panellists that he had been misled to file a case against Mr Paul Muite who was then the Law Society of Kenya chairman.

The panel pressed the judge hard, particularly on why the judges recommended for removal were not given an opportunity to counter graft claims against them.

Ringera had forwarded the report containing his fellow judges and magistrates to then Chief Justice Evans Gicheru without giving them a right of reply.

The 2003 Ringera-led ‘radical surgery’ saw 23 of the 45 Court of Appeal and High Court judges, and 82 of the 254 magistrates implicated in corruption.

The committee recommended immediate prosecution of the implicated individuals, who were given two weeks to resign over what the committee termed as ‘corruption virus, which had infected them’ or face the tribunal to defend themselves.

The panelists yesterday asked why his team had to malign his colleagues in the public without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves.

But he defended himself saying he was equally shocked that the names of the affected individuals appeared in the media, yet only Justice Evan Gicheru and himself had the report.

He added that he regretted the names were leaked, including those of five judges who he termed as close friends.

He, however, told the panel that he had no remorse over investigating corruption allegations against the judicial officers.

The judge termed the moment as a ‘high noon’ and insisted that his committee did a good work as it took courage to investigate his peers and superiors.

UTTERLY SHOCKED

“The names were splashed. It was not my deed or that of any member of the committee. I was utterly shocked to find that the names were splashed without the affected judicial officers being given a hearing, and I went to the Chief Justice and asked where the press found the information because only two people had the information,” he said.

Court of Appeal judge Mohamed Warsame termed the ‘radical surgery’ as a judicial homicide and extrajudicial removal of the officers.

But the former anti-graft Czar, pointed out that it was the Chief Justice who ought to have carried out hearings, based on the information the committee had gathered, and that those adversely mentioned ought to have defended themselves in order to retain their jobs.

Panellist Tom Ojienda took Ringera to ask over his role, to which he said if the same was repeated under the current law, it would be unfair and unconstitutional. He conceded that if he were to take on the task today, he would do things differently.

Another issue on the purge was the perception that he was influenced by the politics of the day about corruption in the Judiciary in his report.

But he said the team ignored testimonies from NIS and the then Justice minister Kiraitu Murungi, to carry out independent investigations.

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