After four months of campaigns, some 10,000 lawyers across the country will elect their next leaders Thursday in an election seen as a possible turning point for the Law Society of Kenya (LSK).
An institution that played a central role in the second liberation of the country, LSK has lately been accused of being tame and playing to the dictates of the State and, in so doing, abandoning its watchdog role.
There were 10,764 lawyers with valid practice certificates as at December 31, 2019, and these are eligible to take part in the elections.
Like in previous years, the elections will be conducted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The outcome is likely to be known several hours after the polls close.
For the position of president, the candidates are Nelson Havi, Harriette Chiggai, Maria Mbeneka and Charles Kanjama.
The race for vice-president attracted only two candidates: Carolyne Kamende Daudi and Eric Nyongesa.
Lawyers will be electing 11 council members; three representatives of the general membership of the society, one of whom shall be an advocate of at least 25 years standing; four upcountry representatives who shall be persons who do not ordinarily practise in Nairobi or at the Coast; three Nairobi representatives who shall be persons who ordinarily practise in Nairobi and one Coast representative, who shall be a person who ordinarily practises at the Coast.
The presence of Ms Chiggai and Ms Mbeneka gives hope that LSK could have a woman president in 16 years. The last and so far the only woman to lead LSK was Raychelle Omamo, the Foreign Affairs CS. She served as the council chairperson from 2001 to 2003.
Those who will be elected will serve until 2022. Under the current LSK law, the president only serves one term.
LSK published an elections notice on October 25. For some candidates, the announcement marked the start of the campaigns. Over the last four months, mainly the presidential and vice-presidential candidates have spent a fortune in countrywide campaigns for votes.
1. Nelson Havi — presidential candidate
He is the only candidate who is currently not in the LSK Council and as such is seen as a fresh face.
His campaign mantra has been “A brave new bar, promising to restore LSK’s lost glory. His agenda is threefold: Monitor legislation; Defend rule of law and Constitutionalism;
2. Harriette Chiggai — presidential candidate
She is the LSK vice-president and previously served as deputy secretary-general of the East Africa Law Society.
Her agenda, if elected, will be: pursue the realisation of the objects of LSK to the letter and adherence to the spirit; restore the face of the Bar and to remake the LSK into an all-inclusive institution representative of the diverse membership age, gender and creed notwithstanding; structure a fit-for-purpose secretariat that can deliver efficiently and effectively the LSK mandate both to the public and to its membership.
3. Maria Mbeneka — presidential candidate
She is currently a member of the LSK Council. Her agenda, she says, is founded on the premise of inclusivity, integrity and innovation. She is imploring LSK members to be united and speak with one voice. “We will strengthen the society by having an elaborate mentorship programme put in place as well as continuously developing both predominant and emerging practice areas.”
4. Charles Kanjama — presidential candidate
He is the chairman, LSK Nairobi branch. He promises to work with lawyers to transform the legal profession into a strong LSK that works effectively with its branches and chapters to enhance the practice and welfare of members, to advance the good of the profession and to strengthen the interests of the rule of law.
5. Carolyne Kamende Daudi — vice presidential candidate
She is currently a member of the LSK Council. She is promising to formulate and implement policies that promote the welfare of members through the establishment of a rapid and responsive mechanism to protect and defend advocates against any unfair treatment in their line of duty, and development of an emergency and endowment fund for response to members’ health distress.
6. Eric Nyongesa — vice presidential candidate
He is an LSK Council member from the Coast. He wants to champion for devolution within LSK through improved funding for branches and consultations with councils of branches before making major decisions affecting the society.
He also wants to champion for the interests and welfare of members with emphasis on proper remuneration, better practice conditions and standards targeting improved CPD trainings and enhancing programmes under the Advocates’ Benevolent Association (ABA).
His other priority would be to increase technical capacities of the Secretariat and Branches towards improved service delivery to members; and to improve on public interest litigation, transparency, accountability and responsiveness.