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EDITORIAL: Fighting Judiciary and CJ bad for democracy

Wednesday July 01 2020
By EDITORIAL

The Judiciary is increasingly finding itself on the receiving end through multifaceted attacks and smear campaigns aimed at undermining its authority. Schemers have rolled out a raft of tactics that range from direct attacks on the Judiciary as an institution to individual judicial officers, starting with Chief Justice David Maraga and independent-minded judges.

At the institutional level, the Judiciary has been subjected to deliberate budget cuts over successive years. Due to that, it has been forced to dispense with critical assignments. For example, rotational sittings of the Court of Appeal judges have been cancelled. Appellate judges normally go round the country to hear appeals as most stations do not have higher courts. Since they cannot hold the rotational hearings, pending cases are piling up.

Related to this, and which is quite telling, President Uhuru Kenyatta has decidedly refused to appoint 41 judges who had been interviewed and approved by the Judicial Service Commission. That has exacerbated a staff shortage in the courts.

All these have the net effect of truncating the Judiciary and undermining its capacity to administer justice. Failure to administer justice is not only a dereliction of constitutional duty but also negation of the commitment to promotion of human rights.

At the personal level, judicial officers have been subjected to all forms of attacks. At the centre is Chief Justice Maraga, whose tenure is to come to an end early next year. Some shadowy characters, acting at the behest of some influential political leaders, have launched a well-orchestrated smear campaign to besmirch his name and force him out.

The CJ has never sat pretty since the Supreme Court, of which he is the president, nullified the election of President Kenyatta in August 2017 on the ground that the polls were hugely bungled. Then, the President warned that “they” would “revisit” the judgment — a subtle threat to deal with the Judiciary. The relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary has since been frosty.

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Cumulatively, there is a worrying trend of an offensive against constitutional democracy and governance. The Jubilee administration has managed to kowtow Parliament through political schemes nested on the ‘Handshake’ deal between President Kenyatta and Opposition Leader Raila Odinga. Faiths and civil society have been emasculated. The media are daily fighting for their space amidst strident attempts to muzzle them.

Thus, the aggression towards the Judiciary is not coincidental or isolated. It is part of a wider scheme to bring down independent institutions, stifle free thought and weaken democracy. We all have a duty to fend off those machinations and protect democracy.

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