CJ Maraga’s lamentations sign of Judiciary’s weakness
It was a forlorn-looking Chief Justice David Maraga who stood on the steps of the Supreme Court last week and went into a long lament about how he is being mistreated by the Executive.
The long, pretty undignified lament, was something about not being accorded the respect “he deserves as CJ,” and about being denied a Mercedes Benz vehicle.
This was, ironically, a throwback to the “nusu mkate” days of the coalition government of retired President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga where the latter kept up a long lament about how he was not being accorded “respect” by being denied “carpets” and “VIP toilet.” It became the joke of the year.
One would have expected the Chief Justice to utilise such a grand stand to address the huge challenges Kenyans continue to face as they seek justice from his courts.
Why is the Judiciary being disrespected? Leaders embody the dignity and credibility of organisations they lead. A leader with no credibility attracts scant respect for the organisation he leads. So, how has the Chief Justice acquitted himself where his stewardship of the Judiciary is concerned?
A few illustrations will suffice. It has now been established that the Akasha brothers, Ibrahim and Baktash, were assisted by judges and lawyers to thwart the Government’s attempts to get them to stand trial on drug trafficking charges. Those judges are still serving. The Chief Justice has taken zero initiative to make them accountable for their actions.
During the recently concluded elections for the male representative of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) some lawyers subverted the election rules to favour one candidate. The Chief Justice stayed aloof during the whole charade that badly damaged the credibility of the JSC and LSK.
The Chief Justice led his Supreme Court bench to annul President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory at the August 2017 polls on a technicality. This nullification raised tensions and almost brought down the country. Where was the wisdom in that, especially when it was clear that the challenger, Raila, had been thoroughly beaten? Worse, it was established that certain members of his bench had been in constant communication throughout the petition with the petitioners. He has never revisited this matter, and it continues to poison the corridors of justice. One can go on and on. Public confidence in the Judiciary is very low, and that reflects across the entire body politic. If the Chief Justice feels he is being disrespected by the Executive, it is because there is scant respect for the arm of Government that he leads.
Mr Chief Justice, if you want the Judiciary to be respected, and consequently yourself as its head, you must act decisively and radically to restore its credibility. In that department, your work has not even begun. Judges and magistrates generally begin work late, take numerous breaks, and finish early. Many officers in the Executive you are lamenting about work 12-16 hour days trying to clear their in-trays, and are constantly on the move- supervising, monitoring, engaging. At least the public has something to judge their public-spiritedness on.
The problems in the Judiciary have nothing to do with budget cuts. These challenges do not need money. They need strong, resolute leadership! In any case, budgets cuts are affecting all government agencies. Mr Chief Justice, Kenyans do not want laments. They want solutions from officials like yourself whom they pay handsomely. What you should have told Kenyans was how you are organising the Judiciary to ensure justice is still being dispensed despite the harsh economic times, and how you will destroy the very laid back work ethic in courts. Kenyans would have been overjoyed to hear how you are putting your foot down to ensure justice is dispensed expeditiously.
If the Chief Justice wants the Judiciary to be respected, it must earn that respect. And the one person sorely responsible for determining whether the Judiciary is respected or not is looking back at him any time he glances in the mirror. Sadly, one fears the sand in the hour glass of his tenure might be just about dissipated.