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Judge William Ouko: Why I am the best man for the Chief Justice position

By Betty Njeru | April 21st 2021
Court of Appeal president William Ouko is interviewed for the position of Chief Justice at the Supreme Court, Nairobi. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

President of the Court of Appeal William Ouko is facing the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) panel today.

Wednesday marks day three of week two interviews for the position of Chief Justice. Ouko is the eighth candidate to be interviewed.  

Judge Ouko has about 34 years of experience in the legal profession, having joined the Judiciary in 1987 as a district magistrate.

He was appointed as the president of the Court of Appeal in 2018 by retired Chief Justice David Maraga.

He told the panel Wednesday morning that upon assuming office, “there were 7,000 appeals pending, and within two years, they were down to 4,000.”

Judge Ouko said that his qualifications and administration in the Judiciary place him at the front line as Kenya’s next Chief Justice.

On reforms and transformation of the Judiciary, Judge Ouko held that the time for talk is over and only action can save the institution.

“Reforms are progressive. We have reached a point where we have enough and it is now time to implement. The focus should be the backlog of cases and expedition will be my approach,” he said. 

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Panel: What problems will you solve within your first 60 days if appointed CJ?

Judge Ouko: I am not in the Supreme court; hence I am not able to identify a problem. But going by the current situation, I personally think that we have had very good jurisdiction from that court but there are criticisms. There ought to be some audit, some introspection-the equivalent of the UK.

The judge also hopes to dispel the accusations against courts as regards identities.

He said: “When you hear a matter filed in 2020 will not be heard until 2025, then there is something wrong. Expeditious disposal is needed and that can only be solved by capacity (number of judges). Case identities are necessary to find out cases that have been there for long or are urgent.”

Ouko also served as the Joint Secretary of the Kotut committee, appointed by former President Daniel Moi.

According to him, the committee was set up to tackle issues and terms of conditions of service of the Judiciary.

In the course of his career, the judge has served together at the Court of Appeal with Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, both of whom are interviewing him for the position of Chief Justice.

Other candidates who have already faced the panel include Justice Said Chitembwe, Justice Martha Koome, Philip Murgor, Prof Patricia Mbote, Justice David Marete, Justice Nduma Nderi, and Senior Counsel Fredrick Ngatia. 

Moni Wekesa and Alice Jepkoech are yet to be interviewed.

The interviews will end on April 23.

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