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Assure Kenyans our judges, magistrates are safe, KMJA to Matiang’i

NATIONAL
By Brian Okoth | May 19th 2021

Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang'i. [File, Standard]

The Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association (KMJA) has urged the Interior ministry to assure Kenyans that its members are protected against attacks – physical or otherwise – by politicians who feel aggrieved by the courts’ rulings.

The KMJA’s plea comes on the back of increased verbal attacks targeted at five judges who threw out the BBI Constitutional amendment quest last Thursday.

Through the body’s Secretary-General, Derrick Kuto, the judges and magistrates state they are acting in good faith, and that their rulings shouldn’t be treated as personal attacks aimed at cutting members of the other Arms of Government down to size.

“On 13th Day of May 2021, a five-judge bench of the High Court of Kenya delivered the now famous ‘BBI Judgement’ which has elicited various discussions. That judgment has since been appealed against. We urge everyone to allow the Court of Appeal deal with the appeal,” said the KMJA in a statement on Tuesday, May 18.

“In the event of dissatisfaction, a further appeal be made to the Supreme Court without resorting to any personal attacks. KMJA is therefore alarmed by the daily attacks directed at the individual judges who sat on that bench. Such attacks are an affront to the decisional independence of the Judges and the rule of law,” said the judges and magistrates’ body.

On Monday, Jubilee Party Secretary-General, Raphael Tuju, who is also a Cabinet Secretary without portfolio, said the judges’ decision smacked of judicial activism, even going ahead to ask the judges to understand the principle of “interdependence”.

Tuju, who spoke on NTV, further said the judges should understand that they “need police protection, even after making certain judgements”.

Those remarks by the CS have irked the KMJA.

“What is surprising is that even high ranking and powerful officials in the Republic of Kenya have openly threatened the Judges who participated in the petitions. There are past and documented incidences where judges and judicial officers as well as their associates have been attacked in their line of duty. It is for this reason that we wish to condemn the said utterances in the strongest terms possible. The same are ancient, irresponsible and retrogressive.”

The judges’ body now wants the Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to “immediately investigate the said-utterances with a view to prosecuting the culprits”.

“The Cabinet Secretary in charge of the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government should immediately assure Kenyans that our Judges and Judicial Officers are safe given the sensitive nature of their assignments.

“We wish to assure Kenyans that such cowardly acts and veiled threats will not dissuade us from boldly dispensing our duties independently and within the law.”

Kuto said, in the statement, that Kenya’s Judiciary’s bold decisions have placed the country on the map, and, therefore, the gains made over the years should be protected jealously.

“The Kenyan judiciary is respected globally for its decisions. We should be proud of our Judges for offering jurisprudential leadership worldwide,” said KMJA.

The KMJA’s remarks were echoed by the Senior Counsel Bar chairperson, Dr. Fred Ojiambo.

“Attacks on the Judiciary are in essence an attack on the Rule of Law. The sad and frightening trajectory of such action is that a culture of no or little respect for the law is engineered, not just among the powerful, but in society in general… We appeal to all Kenyans to pause and reflect carefully about the long term effects of the current invective against the Judiciary,” said Dr. Ojiambo in a statement dated Wednesday, May 19.

On May 13, five judges, namely George Odunga, Jairus Ngaah, Chacha Mwita, and Teresia Matheka, ruled that the Government’s push to change the Constitution through the BBI process was “illegal, null and void”.

The judges ruled that President Uhuru Kenyatta, in his position as the Head of State, could not initiate a Constitutional change process through the popular initiative route.

President Kenyatta’s team, led by Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki, have since vowed to appeal the decision.

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