You shot down the people's will, Uhuru tells courts
By Kevine Omollo and Harold Odhiambo
| June 2nd 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday renewed his attacks on the Judiciary.
In his Madaraka Day speech, the President accused the Judiciary of denying Kenyans the democratic benefits they have been building since independence.
Uhuru, in the presence of the newly appointed Chief Justice Martha Koome, outlined instances in which he claimed the Judiciary failed to consider public good.
While mentioning the recent judgment that dealt a blow to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process, President Kenyatta accused the Judiciary of standing in the way of reforms.
“From nullification of a presidential election in 2017 to an attempt to stop the will of the people as expressed through BBI, the Judiciary has tested our constitutional limits. While I stand by the rule of law and I will always obey the decisions of the courts, I am also compelled by my position to heed the sovereign and supreme voice of the people of Kenya. That is why our national conversation today must focus on the consequences of choice,” said the President.
He said the nation’s founding fathers envisioned a nation built on a continuous conversation with itself since nationhood is a negotiated process that needs constant alignments and adjustments in the pursuit of perfection.
“The architects of Madaraka, however, warned us that, in making such adjustments and alignments, we must avoid the ‘paralysis of constitutional rigidity’,” said the President.
Yesterday's comments rekindled memories of Uhuru's clash with former Chief Justice David Maraga, who complained of reduced funding and failure to appoint new judges.
The appointment of Justice Koome had, however, signaled a fresh start on rebuilding of relationships between the two arms of government.
Deputy President William Ruto had earlier in his speech called on leaders to respect the rule of law. “It would be an act of betrayal if ethnic bigotry and personality cults are allowed to destroy constitutionalism and the rule of law,” he said.
According to the President, the BBI was meant to build bridges, create inclusive politics and to end dominion of two tribes.
“If the court had subjected its decision to stop BBI to a cost-benefit analysis, in other words if it had considered the burden of choice, then, these are the questions the Judiciary would have asked: If we are in a constitutional moment, is a decision against BBI a decision in support of the status quo?
“If BBI were to be stopped, who carries the burden of choice? On whose shoulders will ethnic majoritarianism of two communities rest? And who will carry the burden of losing 30 per cent of our national budget every five years due to the toxic politics that BBI seeks to resolve?” said the President.
Further, Uhuru said there was need for the Judiciary to take responsibility for its actions.
“If the field of independence has been expanded in the Judiciary, how should the field of their responsibility respond to the summons of nationhood? Shouldn’t their decisions also be accompanied by a burden of choice? These are the questions our national conversation should objectively ponder,” said the President.
He said the 2017 nullification of the presidential election cost taxpayers Sh1 trillion, which meant losing Sh1 billion every working hour for 123 days.
“The question the national conversation should ask is; who carried the burden of this choice? Was it the Judiciary or the people? The truth of the matter is, it is the people who carried the burden of this choice. Development programmes meant to make a difference in their lives had to be shelved courtesy of the decision by the Judiciary.”
And unlike the norm, the President did not make off-the-cuff comments.
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