Uhuru will never be able to please everyone, should fearlessly do what is right
By Olivia Chebet
English poet John Lydgate is best remembered for a powerful quote that remains relevant today as it was in his lifetime between 1370 and 1450. “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time,” said Lydgate, who was one of the most prolific, versatile writers of the Middle Ages.
If you find it hard to get a perfect example as to how this quote is applicable in today’s society, you need to look no further than the mixed public reactions to recent developments touching on Kenya’s Judiciary. Kenyans have since 2017 lamented the strained relations between the Judiciary and Executive arms of government, calling on the leaders of these two institutions to make peace with each other for the common good.
Many citizens, most of who are more politically aware than in the past, have over the past two also years implored President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint the 40 judges who were nominated for promotion by the JSC in 2019. Even more importantly, there have been relentless calls for the government to undertake a ruthless crackdown on corruption within the judiciary in a bid to restore public trust in the crucial institution.
Corruption in the corridors of justice has created a damaging perception that justice is reserved for the highest bidder. Somehow, Uhuru has heeded the cries of Kenyans and granted them their wishes in one package, all in just under three weeks. Uhuru played his part in a historic moment when he appointed Martha Koome as Kenya’s first female Chief Justice on May 19, 2021.
This should not be taken for granted, given he had official powers to veto the appointment. The head of state has since that day embarked on a clear mission to mend the relations between the Judiciary and the Executive. He extended the olive branch to Koome from the onset as he deliberately seeks to cease hostilities that characterized the relationship between the two arms during David Maraga’s tenure.
Koome, who has been also under pressure to prioritize repairing the sour relationship, has commendably taken the challenge and moved to restore harmony while, unlike Maraga, appearing to appreciate the interdependence of the three arms of government (add the Legislature). The healthy relationship between the institutions has borne instant fruits, not least the appointment and swearing in of 34 judges last week.
This crucial undertaking proved impossible for well over two years as Maraga rigidly demanded for all-or-nothing with regard to the appointment of the 40 judges. By not appointing all the judges last week, Uhuru granted Kenyans their third wish. He moved to drain the swamp and restore public confidence in the Judiciary by cherry-picking from the list and rejecting the names of six judges.
The President has over the past two years vowed to uphold the Constitution and obstinately refused to appoint to Kenya’s second-highest court judges who intelligence reports showed had serious integrity issues. It would be a tragedy if the President is reduced to a mere rubber-stamp and denied the latitude to turn down appointments of individuals who are proven to be unfit to hold certain public offices. Interestingly, some Kenyans have found it hard to appreciate the President’s commendable gesture and are now busy attacking him for doing exactly what they were previously demanding for. While some of the critics, including former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, are known faultfinders, one would have expected them to at least acknowledge that the country is in better health today than it was last month.
I also expected to see them make merry and toast to the fact that 15 out of the 34 judges Kenyatta appointed to the Court of Appeal are women. Most of these whiners were also mute when Koome was appointed. This is, however, not surprising.
Uhuru should focus on doing what is right and be consoled by the fact that there are individuals who will never appreciate you and your effort no matter how much you do for them. Didn’t the Israelites rebel against Moses, Aaron and even God despite the fact that they were being recused from bondage in Egypt and led to Canaan, the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey?
The President should simply endeavor to uphold and safeguard the Constitution by doing what is right but avoid trying too hard to please everyone; for this will no doubt be an impossible mission. Uhuru should equally not be weighed down by guilt for doing what he has to do for the common good.
He is a politician and a leader and should be guided by the words of philanthropist Teresa Heinz, who aptly captured this scenario when she said that: “If you want to be loved by everyone, don’t go into politics”.
Ms Chebet is a regular commentator on soil, economic and political affairs.