ICJ Kenya: Ruto must withdraw Judiciary claims

President William Ruto. [Standard,File]

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Kenya has denounced recent statements by President William Ruto that cast doubt on the integrity and independence of the Judiciary.

 In a statement on Thursday, January 4, the Commission's Chairman, Protas Saende, asserted that the President's remarks undermine the constitutional principles governing the separation of powers.

Saende referred to Ruto’s statements on January 2, where he claimed that unnamed individuals with vested interests in the health sector colluded with corrupt judicial officers to hinder the new Social Health Insurance Fund program.

In his statement, Ruto said these individuals were “sabotaging” the government’s efforts to provide universal healthcare to Kenyans.

“These sweeping allegations undermine public confidence in the Judiciary and individual Judges and Judicial Officers. Furthermore, such statements by the Head of State erode the legitimacy and public trust of a co-equal institution, considered vital in any democratic state,” Saende said.

The Commission noted that it is common knowledge that Judges and Judicial Officers rule on matters based on submissions presented before them in court, and most public interest matters are conducted in public to ensure transparency of the process.

ICJ also expressed concern over the President’s previous statements attacking the rule of law.

 In 2023, the President issued a stark ultimatum to what he called “corrupt individuals,” giving them three choices: leave the country, face imprisonment, or embark on a metaphorical journey to heaven commonly called “Mambo ni Matatu”.

“The warning was initially pronounced on Sunday, 27 August 2023, and despite drawing criticism, the President reiterated it on Wednesday, 30 August 2023,” Saende said.

The Commission called on Ruto to withdraw the statements against the Judiciary and issue a clarifying statement affirming his commitment to upholding the principles of judicial independence and the rule of law.

ICJ also urged stakeholders, including the Executive, to respect the independence of the Judiciary and work collaboratively to address concerns without compromising the judicial system’s integrity.

 “As a collective of jurists, we are acutely aware of the arduous journey that has brought us to our present state of governance. We are a Nation that has strived to consciously embrace the rule of law, prioritising it over other authoritarian modes of governance. As an embodiment of unity, the presidency bears a profound responsibility, and its occupants should refrain from making statements that could foment discord or undermine the rule of law in Kenya,” the statement read.

 ICJ Kenya remains committed to promoting and defending the rule of law, human rights, and the independence of the Judiciary in Kenya. The Commission called on all stakeholders to prioritize the principles enshrined in the Constitution for the betterment of the nation.