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Our judges must rise and act justly to restore order

OPINION
By David Oginde | July 10th 2021

The Judiciary building, Nairobi.  [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Recent happenings reveal a world full of conflict and disputes. From family members to ordinary friends, and from neighbours to business partners. From individuals to corporates, and from communities to whole nations, the world has become absolutely truculent – fighting over almost everything.

The near civil war in the US over the disputed 2020 presidential election is a stark reminder that no nation is immune. The consequence is a steep rise in the need for peacemakers, arbitrators and mediators. In government structure, the Judiciary is becoming a significant player in ensuring that our pugnacious nature is tamed – with judges and magistrates as the centrepiece of law and order. The import of this expectation is profound.

As if addressing the Judiciary, Prophet Micah, speaking thousands of years ago asked, “What is good, and what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

In this, the core nature of transformative justice appears outlined – a trilogy of Justice, Mercy, and the Fear of God. It implies that, in every case that comes before any judge, they are expected to act justly, love mercy, and walk in the fear of God.

For a fact, our courts have delivered many rulings, perfectly within the law, but which have left us groping for justice – the brute distinction between law and justice. As Aaron Clauset argued, “legal justice is the restoration of fairness in the eyes of the law. In this case, the law is intended to be a common set of rules viewed as an objective measure of morality.”

But Aaron hastens to observe that legal justice does not always result in real justice. “Were every question of fairness (justice vs injustice) a black and white issue, law would become the objective and external morality which it strives to be,” he argues.

Sadly, we are seeing a trend in this nation where legal justice is held as the only acceptable form of justice. The result is a court capture in which unscrupulous men and women use the law to defeat justice. Indeed, some high and mighty in this nation have successfully circumvented justice through court injunctions, bail applications, endless appeals, and so on. That is why serious judges and magistrates need to arise and act justly. This requires great courage and wisdom.

Yet, simple acts from the bench, like keeping the Pangani Six politicians – notorious for inciting crowds – in custody for four days, or rejecting a frivolous plea to adjourn the Sharon Otieno murder case, do much more for the cause of justice than waiting ten years to deliver an earth-shaking judgement. Otherwise, when a judge allows legal technicalities to be used to delay or derail justice, they are not acting justly, nor are they showing mercy to those whose lives desperately depend on the outcome of their cases.

To walk humbly with God, on the other hand, is a simple acknowledgement that God is the Supreme Judge – the custodian of ultimate justice. He will judge the judges but also grants them wisdom. Thus, like Solomon – the wisest man that ever lived – we revere but also depend on Him for wisdom.

In his days, House Speaker Hon Kenneth Marende was often faced with difficult decisions – some that could have torn the nation apart. I am aware that he often took to the place of prayer. God revealed to him such wise decisions that were severally termed by all as “Solomonic wisdom.”

As many have observed, the courts are the only bastion of hope left in our decaying society. It must not be undermined, whether from within or without.

For, if people lose faith in the courts, there will be a social breakdown – mob lynching will be commonplace, state looters will up their game, murderers and kidnappers will be unafraid, domestic violence will be on the increase, and many such ills will soon overwhelm us. We, therefore, pray for and stand with every judge and every magistrate, every prosecutor and every advocate, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Yours is a call to dispense justice not just safeguard the law – so help you God.

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