Akiwumi: Judge who tried to save Kenya from skirmishes

Justice Akilano Molade Akiwumi. [File, Standard]

Tribal clashes and police brutality have over the years claimed many lives.

However, the man who proposed a cure for the senseless violence might have gone to the grave without seeing at least one politician jailed for backing such activities.

High Court judge Akilano Molade Akiwumi died this week after serving the Judiciary for 14 years.  

He served in the High Court between 1987 and 1993.

He then served as a Court of Appeal judge for eight years before retirement.

“Justice Akiwumi tirelessly and patriotically served this country as a distinguished jurist who was known for delivering numerous judgments and rulings that enriched our legal frameworks… Justice Akiwumi also chaired the renowned Akiwumi Commission of Inquiry into tribal clashes,” said Chief Justice Martha Koome while eulogising him.

He chaired the Akiwumi Commission, which was appointed by former President Daniel arap Moi on July 1, 1998, to probe the cause of the clashes witnessed since 1991. 

Others in the commission were Justices Samuel Bosire and Sarah Ondeyo.

The trio were tasked to look into the Rift Valley, Western, Coast and North Eastern Provinces clashes.

Their conclusion was that the only way of ending the clashes was to deal with politicians, and rogue police officers, including those in the special branch and provincial administration officials.

“If this report as we are convinced, is taken seriously, then we expect that the actions proposed in this Chapter of this Report, will be taken against the politicians… They must not be allowed to get away with murder, otherwise, they will only live to do the same again tomorrow,” the 362-page document read in part.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK), according to the report, had at least 49 lawyers but in the end gave "hot air".

LSK implicated some senior government officials, including former powerful minister Nicholas Biwott.

The society also fingered a police inspector. It claimed that one Omar Masumbuko had confessed that the officer was behind the clashes in Coast Province.

The commission insisted on the inspector being called as a witness as the counsel appearing for LSK did not produce any evidence to establish that any statement of that kind was ever made by Masumbuko.

The commission also noted that despite LSK lawyers questioning at least 331 witnesses, it wrote a letter deemed to have been disappointing and pitiful.

The letter "depicted insincerity and lack of seriousness in the role and reputation of the society".

The Akiwumi Commission Report would thereafter find its way into the Kriegler and Waki reports, all of which were also probing violence, especially during elections.

Despite the reports, violence and killings have become part of Kenya’s transition process but no politician has paid the price.

In the letter, LSK had stated that it would not participate in the inquiry unless Biwott, and Al Haji Omar were summoned to testify. At the same time, LSK lamented that the commission had thrown out its application to have the then Attorney General Amos Wako testify. 

Akiwumi also headed a tribunal that was to review the terms and conditions of the National Assembly.

The then speaker on January 23, 2009, appointed the judge who was then retired, alongside eight others.

The Akiwumi tribunal reported its findings to the speaker on November 12, 2009. The report said former parliamentarians were living in deplorable conditions despite serving the country.

It narrowed on enhancing their pension in order to give them a decent life after Parliament.

“When an MP leaves Parliament, it is next to impossible for him to get gainful employment.

"The foregoing, and a host of other considerations, make a powerful case for the payment of a living pension for former Members of Parliament as a pension is the only source of livelihood, available for a majority them,” the report read in part.

The team suggested that MPs should get a minimum living pension equivalent to $1,000.

The recommendation ended up being a part of a case between former MPs Wanyiri Kihoro, Adrew Kiptoon, Mohamed Abdi Galgalo, Mark Mwithaga, Adam Wako Bonaya and Robert Kiptoo Kotir. 

In the case against the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), they lamented that the National Assembly was paying Sh2,700 per month.

Justice David Majanja threw out the case in 2014.

"MPs must realise membership of the House is through the grace and favour of the people and once the people exercise their ultimate authority to remove them they will find themselves in the shoes of the applicants,” said Majanja.