Bad blood between President, CJ traced to nullification of 2017 election

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020 00:00 |
Chief Justice and the president of the Supreme Court David Maraga. Photo/PD/FILE

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

The relationship between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chief Justice David Maraga has not been rosy.  

They have had on and off turf wars, with the Chief Justice accusing the Executive of interfering with the independence of the Judiciary.

The two have fought on many fronts: from a presidential election petition at the Supreme Court which prompted the declaration by Uhuru that he will “revisit” the Judiciary, severe budget cuts, counter-accusations over disobedience of court orders and a spat over independence of the Judiciary.

Last year, Maraga threatened to boycott presidential functions over what he called disrespect for his office.

It is widely believed the frosty relationship between the President and the Chief Justice was sparked off by the historic decision by the Supreme Court nullifying the 2017 presidential election, citing irregularities.

The Supreme Court majority declared Uhuru’s election null and void, triggering a furious warning by the President. “We don’t fear you,” an angry Uhuru told Maraga.

There was a brief cessation of hostilities between Uhuru and Maraga after the Supreme Court upheld the repeat election only for another conflict to emerge following a decision in February by the National Treasury to effect cuts on the Judiciary budget.

Maraga accused the Executive of a plot to undermine the administration of justice by denying the Judiciary funds.

But in response, the President asked Maraga to “think out of the box” on use of resources.

Assign duties

There was the impression of a truce between the two arms of government, but hell broke loose last week when the President signed an Executive Order, sparking protests from Maraga.

The CJ was miffed by what he said was an attempt by the Executive to assign duties to the Judiciary. 

In a protest statement, the CJ declared that the Judiciary was neither a ministry nor a government department to be subjected to an Executive Order.

“Both the Judiciary and Judicial Service Commission are independent organs which are neither assigned functions nor derive authority from the Executive branch of Government,” said Maraga.

However, Attorney General Paul Kihara defended the President, saying he had a constitutional duty to ensure “synergies among all arms of government.’’

But lawyer Charles Kanjama faulted the framers of the Executive Order.

 “They need to word their orders better to remove any appearance of having any authority over independent offices and constitutional commissions,” he said.

More on National