Day Mutula Kilonzo Snr, faced expulsion from lawyers meet in 1990

The late Mutula Kilonzo. [File, Standard]

Months preceding his death at Maanzoni, Senator Mutula Kilonzo caused a national stir by suggesting that persons charged with international crimes should not run for elective office.

He virulently defended this position, saying he would still be right even if everybody else in the country took the contrary position. He threatened to dump his party if it supported the candidature of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.

Mutula was known for taking hardline positions. And he defended them with his all. During the single-party era, Mutula was an overzealous defender of Kanu, and took no prisoners.

Lawyer Gibson Kamau Kuria met Mutula's full wrath in 1990 after he presented a paper on what advocates expect from the Kenyan bench. In the presentation made at the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya), Kuria had declared that after 1988, “the country is without independent Judiciary.”

He dismissed calls by the then Chief Justice Hancox to lawyers to be loyal to the Head of State, saying it appeared that lawyers were being asked “to add a touch of loyalty to the law.”

When he rose to contribute, Mutula dismissed the whole presentation with unmistakable contempt. He was wearing a red shirt and reminded the lawyers he was doing so to underscore his loyalty to the ruling party.

His remarks that Kuria’s attack on the judiciary “had poured in the usual manner like water out of his mouth” worked up the lawyers in the room.

Told by seminar chair Lee Muthoga to withdraw the remarks, Mutula held his ground, saying Kuria deserved those words. He claimed Kuria had used similar words in his attack on the judges.

A chorus of chants ensued with lawyers insisting he either withdraws the remarks or be expelled from the meeting. Undeterred, Mutula retorted that they would have a very hard time getting him out.

He soon thereafter walked out, but not before he reminded the meeting that he was doing so of his own accord.

In his presentation, Kuria had riled at judges for keeping quiet when their independence was abolished in 1988, when the basic structure of the Constitution was altered in 1982 and when checks and balances of the constitutions kept disappearing over the years.

“Duty requires that you protest or express concern over such threats as the weakening of the independence of the court and that of the bar, and the basic tenets of the constitution,” he said.

He complained that judges were attending political meetings and that some judges had “objectionable associations” with advocates. He concluded that generally, the way judges were recruited, the terms they served under, the way majority of them performed, and way some were conducting themselves was “not assisting in the creation of a civilized, stable and ordered society.”