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Judging the judge: Who is the Judiciary accountable to?

By Jael Mboga | December 12th 2020 at 14:30:32 GMT +0300

Chief Justice David Maraga in Nairobi on December 11, 2020. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

As Kenya marked 57 years of being a republic, President Uhuru Kenyatta cast his attention once again on the Judiciary.

Speaking at Nyayo Stadium on Saturday, Uhuru said there is a need to ensure the will of justice spins fairly for all.

To reduce the distance between the disadvantaged and the law, the Judiciary must be subjected to the will of the people.

“It must have an oversight body that is a direct expression of the spirit of the nation.”

He questioned whom the Judiciary is accountable to and where are the Judicial checks and balances located outside of the Judicial Service Commission led and dominated by the officers of the court.

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According to Uhuru, the solution lies in the First Amendment proposal to set up an independent Office of the Judiciary Ombudsman to oversight judicial action on behalf of the people.

President Uhuru Kenyatta at Nyayo Stadium on December 12, 2020. 

Uhuru’s statement comes at a time when Chief Justice David Maraga has proceeded on terminal leave as the attention now shifts to his successor.

Priority on the new CJ’s list, according to Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma who sits in the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC), will be to mend the relationship between the Judiciary, Executive and Parliament.

A full in-tray awaits the successor who is expected to carry the judicial reforms mantle to the next level.

It is an overflowing tray that he leaves behind as a result of what he terms as interference with the Judiciary’s independence, disobedience of court orders and refusal to grant the institution financial autonomy.

“The CJ did very well in defending the Judiciary but the relationship with the Executive suffered. If mended, all the pending issues such as appointment of judges and construction of court buildings will fall into place,” Kaluma said.

It is a relationship that has had its ups and downs, with the Judiciary threatening to close some of its courts due to lack of funds.

But during his last State of the Judiciary address in November, CJ Maraga told President Uhuru he has nothing personal against him.

Delivering his last State of the Judiciary address in Nairobi, the CJ said: "To our President, wherever you are, it is clear that there is a difference of opinion between me and you. But I want to assure you, and the entire nation, that I have nothing personal against you."

Maraga, who retires in 2021, stated that his strained relationship with the executive led to only 47 per cent of the Judiciary financial requests being honoured by the Treasury.

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