In early 2020 on a date understood to be February 27, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) will elect a new crop of leaders to steer it for the next two years.
Amidst the developments, there have been concerns that LSK’s place in society has been declining.
Critics say the organisation has been losing its voice as far as the administration of justice is concerned.
Besides, the society has been beset by squabbles even within its governing council that spill out into the public arena, exposing the extent of influence politics has in the running of the country’s premier bar association.
As the elections approach, these are the issues that will weigh heavily on candidates and the legal fraternity in general.
LSK has cleared four candidates to compete for the position of president.
They are current vice president Harriette Chiggai, Mr Nelson Havi, Mr Charles Kanjama and Ms Maria Mbeneka.
PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION
Current council members Carolyne Kamende Daudi and Eric Wafula Nyongesa will fight it out for the position of vice president.
The lawyers will also be electing two general members representatives, a Coast representative, four upcountry representatives, three Nairobi representatives and two disciplinary committee members.
The general members representative of lawyers with more than 25 years’ experience attracted only one candidate – incumbent Roseline Odede.
LSK has of late been accused of being thin on public interest litigations (PIL), as Mr Okiya Okoiti Omtatah and other activists run the show.
“The PIL mandate of LSK has not been sufficiently internalised and appropriately developed as it should,” legal expert Paul Ogendi, who is associated with Chama cha Mawakili, said.
“You cannot play an effective role of checking government abuse of power and excesses as a lawyers' organisation when the most important tool specially available to you for doing so is the law, and more precisely PIL, but you do nothing with it."
LSK has objected to the registration of CCM “since it is the direct translation of LSK in Kiswahili as used by local and international media houses”, according to society President Allen Gichuhi.
APPOINTMENT OF JUDGES
The accusation that LSK has not been proactive on PIL has been reinforced by the ongoing case involving the appointment of judges.
Mr Adrian Kamotho, a lawyer himself, moved to court to have President Uhuru Kenyatta compelled to appoint judges recommended for various posts in the recent recruitment.
LSK only applied to be enjoined in the case at a much later stage, prompting criticism from many quarters, including Mr Peter Wanyama – another lawyer.
“The deafening silence from LSK regarding the new judges is telling. The society has been captured,” Mr Wanyama said.
Mr Gichuhi, however, says the criticism is unfair. “It is an unfortunate myth that LSK has lost its voice when one considers...this era of a vibrant Constitution. Work is being effectively undertaken and the approach of LSK is not to pontificate but to engage with branches of government and provide solutions to problems which are being taken on board,” Mr Gichuhi said.
“For instance, LSK carried out mediation in the fight between Senate and the National Assembly. We believe actions speak louder than words.”
According to Mr Gichuhi, LSK has in the past two years participated and handled more PIL cases than had ever happened before.
He cites the case in which a consent was recorded, leading to the formation of a task force to come up with the conveyancing e-regulations and Huduma Namba in which judgment will be delivered next month.
Others, according to Mr Gichuhi, are LSK’s role in challenging the housing levy, the NHIF case in which the court allowed affidavits prepared by advocates, the Solai dam suit and access to citizens to park in the city centre.
He also said LSK is not competing other institutions and individuals interested in taking up PIL matters.
“The Constitution allows any person who is affected by a matter to consider challenging it by way of filling PIL. We encourage members to take up such cases,” he said.
On the judges’ recruitment, he says it would have been wrong for LSK to file a different case on the same issues in court.