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This man Havi: Is he the small axe felling big trees?

By Everlyne Kwamboka and Kamau Muthoni | September 22nd 2020

Perhaps fearing his boldness and strict adherence to the law, certain quarters  tried to block Nelson Havi from taking over the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) leadership.

Initially, the excuse was that he was not ripe age-wise (attaining 15 years in practice) to lead the society. Then the question of him not being a member of the society’s council to vie for the position came up.

Like a wounded soldier, Havi made a quiet tactical retreat and bid his time. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Havi (pictured) emerged this year and successfully vied for the society’s top seat.

The society’s leadership is said to have been relatively blunt for some time as compared to when Senior Counsel such as Pheroze Nowrojee, Paul Muite, Raychelle Omamo, Okong’o Omogeni, Ahmednassir Abdulahi and Eric Mutua were at the helm.

But with Havi at the helm, LSK seems to be slowly but surely regaining its reputation, rivalling activist Okiya Omutata in protecting public interests against the excesses of Executive and impunity by the high and the mighty.

Havi has put the government on toes, over-seeing, especially how the Bill of Rights and the Constitution is being implemented.

“The directive in the Constitution is that the CJ will advise the President to dissolve Parliament for failure to enact two-thirds gender rule. It is prescriptive, it does not offer the option to the President,” Havi insisted yesterday, in regard to Chief Justice Maraga’s advise to President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament.

According to Havi, an election is on the way within 90 days of the dissolution of Parliament.

“If the President does not act, he will have violated the Constitution and will end up with a Parliament that is in office unlawfully and unconstitutionally. The import of this is two-fold; first, Parliament losses its legitimacy and that being the case, all laws made by it will end up lacking effect,” he said.

In regard to the society’s recent vibrancy on defending the public interest, the LSK president says it comes with the territory.

“This is an office that gives one  [the] power to check on excesses of the government and other institutions by ensuring that the Constitution is respected,” he said.

Public litigation

In his quest to ensure the Executive and Judiciary uphold the rule of law and constitutionalism plus administer justice, public litigation that had been taken over by activist Omtata are slowly trickling back to the society.

The society is currently in court, challenging decisions by the government and other powerful agents of impunity.

Havi, who has since added one more feather on his hat as a Maragoli elder following last weekend’s colourful coronation ceremony at his rural home, has his microscope also on legislation passed or stuck in Parliament.

Just like the Church bell that alerts worshipers when the service is about to start, Havi and his team took a herculean task to save the Constitution by pushing to have MPs sent home due to their failure to enact the two-thirds gender principle within five years after the promulgation of the document.

He is a man who has now sent chills down the MPs’ spines as they ponder on how they will repay loans taken for their 2017 election campaigns, huge mortgages and the flashy cars.

“Parliament ceases to have oversight power it has over the President, state agencies and state officers. That is a consequence. If the President does not dissolve Parliament, we will be in a state of anarchy,” Havi told The Standard yesterday.

And although he does not have a time frame within which to act, Havi says the court had interpreted that reasonable time is between 14-21 days.

“If he doesn’t within 21 days, then Parliament will be unlawfully carrying out its functions,” he said.

The LSK president who loves elegant fashion and wears a Montblanc watch has not been spared by critics over his remarks in the past.

Havi’s leadership is perceived to have stepped on the toes of some of those who have been in practice for more than two decades or so and they haven’t shied away from robustly expressing their displeasure.

He is the first president of the society to attempt to strip or deny some of his seniors a chance to serve in the prestigious club of “senior lawyers”, even after President Kenyatta elevated them to the rank.

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