The bid to neutralise civil society and the media will backfire sooner or later

Monday December 2 2013

Advocate Ahmednassir Abdulahi Advocate

Advocate Ahmednassir Abdulahi Advocate interviews advocate Rosemary Atieno Okumu at the Supreme Court on the 25th of June 2012. Mr Ahmednassir stood out during the confirmation hearings and interviews as the JSC member who had done his homework, says Macharia Gaitho PHOTO: Emma Nzioka 

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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First they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out . . . because I was not a journalist.

Then they came for civil society, and I did not speak out . . . because I was not civil society.

Then they came for the judges, and I did not speak put . . . because I was not a judge.

Then they came for me . . . and there was nobody left to speak up for me.

This contemporary Kenyan re-telling of Martin Niemoller’s withering critique of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany sums up perfectly our own situation.

Dictatorship is creeping up on us slowly and insidiously. From inside our fragile, individual comfort zones, we refuse to recognise the looming danger because we are not the ones targeted. It’s always those “others” that are being silenced, so that’s their problem, not ours.

FRAILITIES

Media and NGOs are easy targets because they are a nuisance to many, especially those who will not countenance the regime being held to scrutiny.

The Judiciary is an easy target right now because of the way it exposed its own frailties with the Gladys Shollei saga. The Chief Registrar of the Judiciary fought back against the Judicial Service Commission onslaught by enlisting reactionary political forces keen to sabotage the emergence of a reformed Judiciary.

Even after Mrs Shollei was forced out of office, Parliament continued an onslaught targeting JSC members, mostly combative lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, who had led the battle against the registrar.

The parliamentary hearings against the JSC were a farce. The chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Mr Samuel Chepkonga, was openly partisan when Mrs Shollei took her case to him, and also in the way he ran the hearings.

The outcome was predictable, given the Jubilee dominance in the House and lack of an effective opposition.

The composition of the team President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed to investigate the suspended Judicial Service Commissioners is telling. Conservative cheerleaders with a chip on their shoulders such as Mr Justice Aaron Ringera and Ms Jennifer Shamalla probably make the impending hearings a waste of time.

MORE ENEMIES THAN FRIENDS

One can comfortably predict that the goose is cooked for some of the suspended JSC members.

But then who will mourn for Mr Ahmednassir? The campaign to neuter the Judiciary is premised on the fact that in the crosshairs is a man who has made more enemies than friends in shaping the new-look court.

Mr Ahmednassir stood out during the confirmation hearings and interviews as the JSC member who had done his homework. He was able to bring out the failings and shortcomings of the applicants who did not measure up, and to ease in those who met his favour.

The Jubilee campaign watched with horror the composition of an independent Supreme Court led by Dr Willy Mutunga from the ranks of what they baptised ‘Evil Society’, and the exit of many Kanu-era judges who invariably toed the establishment line.

To Jubilee’s pleasant surprise, however, the Mutunga Supreme Court unanimously upheld President Kenyatta electoral victory. Mr Ahmednassir played a prominent role in the petition as lawyer for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. His address to the court focused not so much on the legal niceties, but in scornfully telling the judges that they had no choice but to find for his client.

In subsequently going for Mrs Shollei, Mr Ahmednassir might have reminded the Jubilee establishment that it had in its midst a monster it could not control.

The Judicial Service Commission, however, is not the ultimate target. That is just a phase in a campaign aimed at re-establishment of a pliant, Kanu-era court that will dance to the whims of State House.

Once the independent media is neutralised, ‘evil society’ silenced and an independent Judiciary crippled, the stage will be fully set for reincarnation of the Kanu regime clothed in digital colours.

The late President Jomo Kenyatta must be looking on with satisfaction, and President Moi purring with satisfaction. The children of Kanu are in charge.