Chief Justice Martha Koome faults Willy Mutunga for inciting judges to strike

Chief Justice Martha Koome. [Chemtai Lochakapong, Standard]

Chief Justice Martha Koome has expressed discontentment on the call by former Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga asking judges to go on strike over the Executive’s refusal to obey court orders.

Koome, in a statement Friday, regretted Mutunga’s advise terming it incitement meant to disrupt access to justice for Kenyans.

“I register deep concern and disapproval of the call made by former Chief Justice, Dr. Willy Mutunga for Judges to go on strike. Notwithstanding the reasons for which that call was made, it is imperative that we all examine the implications of that regrettable incitement,” the CJ said.

“The implications of calling for a judicial strike are far reaching. It is in part, calling for the suspension or dismemberment of the Constitution by excluding one arm of Government from the constitutional operations of our democratic state.”  

She reminded the former occupant of the CJ office that during his tenure, he disproved of scenarios that called for judges to down their tools, case in point when three Supreme Court Judges (Justices Mohammed Ibrahim, J.B Ojwang’ and Njoki Ndung’u) were indicted with allegations to strike.

“Although the Judges have since been cleared of those allegations by the High Court, it is expected that the Office of the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Commission would take such action as an affront to the Code of Conduct that all Judges and Judicial Officers have sworn to uphold. It is therefore regrettable that Dr. Mutunga has called for abscondment of duty by the Judiciary which in effect, will affect the operations of the entire justice sector,” Koome added.

The first female Chief Justice noted she had personally reached out to the Mutunga, while asking judges to disregard the call and focus on the job ahead, which includes reducing the case backlog in the Judiciary.

“Clearing this backlog remains our top priority. We therefore cannot afford to abandon our judicial mandate owing to a matter that is pending before the Court of Appeal and which will be accorded the centrality that it deserves,” she said.

Dr Mutunga had on Thursday, October 28, called on judges to go on strike in protest of the Executive’s continued tendency to ignore court orders and disregard the rule of law.

Mutunga averred that the Executive will not respect the Judiciary if judges fail to act now, citing its refusal to appoint the remaining six judges. 

The former CJ had in June this year launched a scathing attack on President Uhuru Kenyatta over his failure to appoint six judicial officers, asking him to resign if the burden placed on him to uphold the Constitution was too heavy.

In a four-page barrage, Dr Mutunga told the President to instead resist "those who have built a thriving pettiness cottage industry, completely consumed by the pursuit of personal vendetta, at the expense of the national good and Kenya's fledgling constitutional democracy".