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Mt Kenya lawyers fault Executive, call for truce in judges’ appointment

The Mt Kenya chapter of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) chairperson Lindah Kiome (centre) speaking during a press briefing in Meru on June 13, 2020. They have called for a handshake between the Judiciary and the Executive to end the stalemate. [Olivia Murithi, Standard]

A contingent of 14 members of the Law Society of Kenya drawn from Mt Kenya region has faulted the Executive in the ongoing stalemate over the appointment of 41 judges which has nearly paralysed court operations.

Speaking at Alba Hotel in Meru yesterday, the lawyers said that the actions of Attorney-General and the President Uhuru Kenyatta were the stumbling block to the process and not the Judicial Service Commission.

They argued that vetting the judges is a preserve of the JSC and the Executive has no role to play in clearing them. Through the Chairperson Lindah Kiome, they accused the Attorney General Kihara Kariuki of playing hardball and overstepping his mandate hence creating the deadlock. According to them, the Executive and the AG ought to have presented their reservations on the 18 judges whom they alleged to have failed the integrity bar.

“These 41 judges went through a public interview process that was televised in Kenya and beyond. The AG and the Executive had a grand opportunity to present any existent reservations during this process,” said Kiome.

She questioned why the AG backtracked on the issue even after sitting in the vetting panel of the JSC as a member and a representative of the Executive during the interview of the judges.

“The AG, who is the chief legal adviser to the government and a member of the JSC, also participated in this interview process. Did he table this incriminating evidence against the candidates? Or did he approve the appointment of these candidates?” she posed.

They called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to initiate a ceasefire between the two arms of government in the interest of the public.

They said their hope is that talks between the two sides would yield fruits and end the stalemate which has prevented the swearing-in of 41 judges who would be instrumental in easing the backlog in courts and congestion in prisons.

Ms Kiome urged President Uhuru to be on the forefront in ensuring government institutions obey court orders and uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.

“We echo the sentiments of Chief Justice David Maraga on the obedience of court orders and call upon the Judiciary to stand firm against persons disobeying courts,” said Ms Kiome.

“A country that is not governed by the rule of law is a country that is flirting with anarchy,” she added.

The lawyers asked the Attorney General to present new allegations against any of the 41 nominees through due process and allow the untainted ones to be sworn-in.

“If at all some of the nominees have integrity issues which have not been proven, then there is no justification for judging all the 41 collectively for alleged mistakes of a few. Some of the nominees are already serving in the Judiciary and it does not make sense for them to continue waiting for the appointments,” added Kiome.

The LSK branch further appealed to the Executive to avoid disregarding the rule of law, saying this could lead to anarchy.

The blame games

The judges ‘appointment puzzle has degenerated into a full-blown tiff between the two arms of government characterised by blame games. Last week, the AG issued a statement absolving President Uhuru from the blames but instead accused Chief Justice David Maraga of incompetence and mudslinging the President.

This was after CJ Maraga had torn into the President for frustrating the Judiciary in the appointment of judges which he said had led to the piling up of cases in the courts. Maraga also picked an issue with the Executive for disobeying court orders and failing to compensate accident victims already awarded by the courts.

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