Ruto hits back at LSK over judicial independence and corruption claims

President William  Ruto. [Standard, File]

President William Ruto has responded to the criticism from the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) on his stance on constitutionalism and the independence of the Judiciary.

In a statement by State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohamed on Wednesday, January 3, Ruto turned down the advice from LSK on Judiciary emphasising the ongoing efforts to rectify past injustices and condemning all forms of impunity. 

LSK had earlier accused the President of undermining the autonomy of the Judiciary by interfering with the appointment of judges and the budget allocation for the courts.

It also claimed that the President was using his Executive powers to influence the outcome of corruption cases involving his allies and associates.

However, Ruto dismissed the allegations as baseless, saying that he has “consistently championed upholding the rule of law and constitutional principles, with a particular emphasis on safeguarding the independence of the Judiciary.”

He cited his “unwavering respect for and compliance with recent court orders, notably those about the government’s Affordable Housing Program,” as evidence of his commitment to the rule of law.

Ruto also reminded the public that he had taken “deliberate measures to rectify past injustices by appointing judicial officers who, due to Executive impunity, had been unjustly denied their rightful appointments” at the onset of his presidency.

He added that he had “purposefully increased the budget allocation to support the Judiciary’s operational needs” in his “steadfast belief in the autonomy of the Judiciary.”

The President acknowledged that “Executive impunity is unacceptable” but argued that “legislative impunity, by its own measure, is also unacceptable and so is judicial impunity.”

The Head of State said that as a “believer in the Constitution”, he recognises “the imperative to lead by example in defending our constitutional values.”

He said that this includes “shielding innocent citizens from judicial misconduct perpetrated by corrupt officers colluding with vested interests.”

Ruto warned that “corruption, whether within the Judiciary, the Executive or the Legislature and, indeed, among the general public must not find refuge behind the shield of judicial independence.”

He vowed to “expose and hold accountable those who engage in corrupt practices whoever they maybe and wherever they are.”

The President also reiterated his vision of providing social and economic rights to Kenyans, as mandated by Article 43 of the Constitution. He said that he had put together a manifesto to provide affordable and decent housing, universal health coverage, ensure production of adequate food and provision of social security and education.

He said that this manifesto was prepared and organised in consultation with citizens at fora in all the 47 counties in Kenya during the election campaigns. He said that he had also formulated various policies and legislation on affordable housing and universal healthcare, which were approved by the Cabinet and passed by Parliament.

 Ruto said that this was a “moment in history when our country has a chance to break free from the chains of impunity and realise the transformation mandated by the people and legislated by Parliament.”

He said that he would not allow this opportunity to be wasted by “corruption and impunity” that obstruct the hopes and aspirations of the people.

The President expressed his dismay at the recent incidents where “independent institutions were stopped from charging suspects of corruption” by the courts.

He questioned the legitimacy of such actions, asking “Should individuals investigated by the DCI and the EACC find refuge in courts to circumvent the criminal justice system?”

He condemned the fact that “such suspects are now roaming free in our streets with impunity” and called it “judicial impunity” rather than “judicial independence.”

He urged all State Organs, State officers, public officers, and every individual involved in applying or interpreting the Constitution to be guided by national values and principles of governance, including public participation, as stipulated by Article 10 of the Constitution.

Ruto said that public participation was a “value expressly provided in the Constitution that gives citizens a premium place in law-making” and that it should not be dismissed by any judicial official.

 He accused some judicial officials of being “signs of judicial tyranny and impunity perpetuated by compromised and corrupt judicial officers working with beneficiaries of the rot that had permeated our healthcare system.”

The President said that he “cannot be expected to be a mere observer in the face of such injustices” and that he “cannot remain mum.”