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Supreme Court judge Ojwang opts to face tribunal

Thursday April 4 2019

Jackton Ojwang.

Supreme Court judge Jackton Ojwang. He is accused of gross misconduct. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NATION TEAM
By NATION TEAM
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Supreme Court Judge Jackton Ojwang has opted to face the tribunal appointed to investigate his conduct.

The fate of the judge now lies in the hands of the seven members picked by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday.

Whereas he declined to face the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to respond to allegations of abuse of office and corruption, close aides said he was preparing his defence.

Justice Ojwang has appointed constitutional lawyer Nani Mungai to lead his defence.

On Wednesday, Mr Mungai said he could not comment on the specifics of how Prof Ojwang will defend himself.

THREATS

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Even before he faces the tribunal, JSC members have told the Nation that since they recommended the removal of the judge, they have faced a barrage of abuses and slander.

“From the rigorous campaigns against JSC members, it’s evident that corruption is fighting back,” said JSC vice-chairperson Mercy Deche.

For the past one week, hashtags on Twitter have portrayed various JSC commissioners as short of integrity.

“Personally, I have been slandered for being associated with the legal woes facing the estate of the late Vice-President Kijana Wamalwa. I was never a lawyer for any of the parties. The advocates in the case can be ascertained from the court file,” Mrs Deche said.

Commissioner Deche, who said that she has not practised law since joining the JSC, told theNation that unknown people had opened a Facebook page that had her name and photos, which was being used to abuse lawyers and judges.

“I am making a report to the DCI on these issues,” she said.

MEMBERS

Another commissioner, Prof Olive Mugenda, also said she was dismayed by the ongoing online banter. “We will continue serving the public despite the abuses,” she said.

Meanwhile, President Kenyatta may have met the constitutional deadline of 14 days to appoint a tribunal to investigate Justice Ojwang, but questions are being raised about the neutrality and integrity of some members.

He appointed the almost retiring Court of Appeal Judge Alnashir Visram to chair the tribunal to look into the allegations against Justice Ojwang.

Members are retired judge Festus Azangalala, Ambrose Weda, former member of the National Environment Tribunal Andrew Bahati Mwamuye, Lucy Kambuni, Sylvia Wanjiku Muchiri and Amina Abdalla.

Shortly after the Kenya Gazette notice was published, lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi took to Twitter to question the composition of the tribunal, which he concluded does not inspire confidence.

“Breaking news … H.E Uhuru appoints a seven-member panel headed by Justice Visram to investigate Justice JB Ojwang … contains individuals very sympathetic to the Jubilee and anti-JSC … the foundation for a whitewash has been laid so well … bogus process,” said Mr Abdullahi.

UHURU MISLED

For instance, Mr Weda’s neutrality has come under focus following a social media post he made on January 23 in which he made references to the effect that Justice Ojwang had been his supervisor for his academic research at the University of Nairobi.

Mr Abdullahi appeared to suggest that President Kenyatta might have been misled by his advisers in appointing the tribunal.

“Why do the handlers of H.E Uhuru always embarrass him? Why don’t they do some homework when assigned simple tasks by H.E Uhuru? Ambrose has carried water for Ojwang all his life … and then you appoint him to clear him … why are processes in Kenya always rigged in advance?” he posed.

Mr Weda said he was not concerned about the insinuations.

“He (Justice Ojwang) taught all of us, including some of the judges. These former students have been appearing before him over the years with no one raising a finger. Let those who have questions bring them on. We will answer when the right time comes,” said Mr Weda.

RETIRE

Some of the tribunal members have also been in close association with Jubilee, including representing the party and President in the presidential election petition.

Justice Visram was at one time touted as a probable successor of former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and was one of the three final candidates shortlisted by the JSC. Eventually, Mr David Maraga was picked over him.

He would have been the first Chief Justice after the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010 when President Mwai Kibaki tried to directly nominate him but was unsuccessful.

He is one of the three Court of Appeal judges who are due to retire between June and September this year. The other two are justices Erastus Githinji and Philip Waki.

Reports by Sam Kiplagat, Nyambega Gisesa and Walter Menya