Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi: I leave LSK with head held high

Monday, September 13th, 2021 00:00 |
LSK President Nelson Havi Photo/PD/FILE

 Like a movie with captivating scenes, Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi’s action-packed two-year term is drawing to an end and as expected, news of his impending exit has elicited mixed reactions.

Immediately after he was declared winner in February 28, 2020 election, it became clear that Havi, 44, who was running on a platform of change—and, the promise to restore LSK’s lost glory—was a man on a mission.

From the outset, Havi promised to return LSK to the days of the likes of Paul Muite and Willy Mutunga, who are credited with mid-wifing the country’s second liberation and the struggle for political pluralism.

Muite headed LSK at one of the most tumultuous period in Kenya’s history,  between 1991-1993 when the then President Daniel Moi yielded to pressure and repealed Section 2A of the Constitution, paving way for political pluralism.

On the other hand, Mutunga, who was detained without trial in 1982-1983 as Moi’s government conducted a crackdown on dissents, was at the helm in 1993-1995.

A law scholar, Mutunga, went on to become Kenya’s first Chief Justice under the 2010 Constitution.

He soon became a household name and Kenyans became accustomed to his silvery voice and well-combed relatively long hair as he debated and argued in TV and Radio shows on matters of public interest cases in and out of the courts.

Landmark judgements

Although his term ends on March 24, 2022, Havi’s achievements are available for your perusal.  

“President Nelson Havi, you have run the race, you have kept the faith, now await the prize.

Kenya will never forget you. You are a true son of the soil,” a Facebook user called William Obiero said.

 “I am very proud of you President Nelson Havi. You have done us proud. LSK roared once more and defended the Constitution under your leadership,” said Jamuh Mureithi.

“LSK took the role of the Opposition now that we do not have one and it did well. You cannot be compared to any former LSK presidents despite the opposition you got from the eight who played for other teams but members,”Mureithi added.  

In most instances, Havi and his team obtained landmark judgements mostly against the government—literally taking the bull by the horns. In total, he says he received more than 20 favourable judgments against the Jubilee administration.

Chief among this, he said, was the judgment that slammed brakes on the Building Bridges Initiative constitutional amendment Bill first at the High Court and thereafter in the Court of Appeal.

Public advisory

Another case he points out as the corner stone of his tenure is the judgment that found the male dominated National Assembly  unconstitutional for failing to meet the two-thirds gender rule as outlined by the Constitution.

Consequently, retired Chief Justice David Maraga issued a public advisory to President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament on October 21, 2020 triggering fears of a constitutional crisis.

Describing the judgment at the time as momentous, Havi threw his weight behind Maraga. 

“It was an act of bad governance and recklessness by a Parliament that sat comfortable thinking that the CJ will not have courage to dissolve it,” he told People Daily at the time.

“If the President does not dissolve Parliament, all the laws passed by the House henceforth will be unconstitutional,” Havi, who has set his eyes on Westlands parliamentary seat, added.

For Havi who grew up in the ordinary rural life in Kakamega, Western Province, no dream is too big and no challenge is too great.

However, his critics accuse him of being rough, dictatorial and egocentric, citing the internal wrangles that have rocked LSK, often spilling out in public. 

Some have likened him with former US President Donald Trump, who was unceremoniously kicked out of office.

He has specifically accused some senior advocates of sabotaging his administration and working in cahoots with deposed LSK chief executive Mercy Wambua and State operatives to frustrate him.

In an interview with a local daily recently, Havi defended himself, saying majority of Kenyans appreciate the role he has played in defending the Constitution, adding that only a few people guided by self-interest were unhappy.

“I am a strong personality. I take strong positions on issues and this is something members were well aware of when they elected me,” he was quoted saying. 

“We have been very vocal on several issues, including the dissolution of Parliament and the State is not happy.

The best way for them is to keep us busy with internal wrangles so that we are not able to speak in one voice on key issues that have to be raised,” he said.

Havi divides opinion down the middle, for some, he is a hero who has given back LSK the teeth to bite injustices committed by State and its operatives. Others, however, view him as a political hireling. 

“The August 24, 2021 LSK Special General Meeting will be my last assignment as President,” Havi said in a message posted in his social media platforms on Monday. 

In July, he was arrested on accusation that he had assaulted Wambua inside the LSK offices.

Police have recently pitched camp at the LSK offices forcing Havi to seek intervention from the courts.

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