The tribunal investigating the conduct of Supreme Court Judge Jackton Ojwang’ starts its sittings Monday morning with 22 witnesses lined up to testify before it.
Last month, members of the tribunal visited Justice Ojwang’s home in Migori County for a fact-finding mission following allegations of a close association between the judge, the county government and its Governor Okoth Obado.
The judge was suspended on April 2, after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommended to President Uhuru Kenyatta for the formation of a tribunal to investigate his conduct.
Two complaints had been filed against the judge and instead of appearing before the JSC to defend himself, Justice Ojwang’ opted to send his lawyer Nani Mungai to represent him.
The tribunal will be chaired by Court of Appeal judge Alnashir Visram and its members are retired Appellate judge Festus Azangalala, Ambrose Weda, Mr Andrew Bahati Mwamuye, Senior Counsel Lucy Kambuni, Ms Sylvia Wanjiku Muchiri and Ms Amina Abdalla.
Judge Ojwang’ is accused of gross misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest and breach of judicial code of conduct.
'CONFLICT OF INTEREST'
While recommending for his probe, JSC said despite being conflicted and being closely associated with Mr Obado, Justice Ojwang’ sat in the bench that heard a case involving the governor.
He, however, defended himself saying he was not part of the bench that determined the main grievance which related to interests in the Sony Sugar-belt area.
The complaint was that Justice Ojwang’ authored a judgment regarding the Sony Sugar belt and in return was rewarded by Mr Obado, who allegedly refurbished the road to the judge’s private home on the outskirts of Migori town. Notably, street lights have been installed on that road.
The sittings are being held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).
Justice Ojwang’ said he will not be calling any witnesses, although he opted for the hearings to be conducted in private meaning the media and the public will be kept out of the sittings.
A judge may be removed from office for among other reasons, gross misconduct or misbehaviour, bankruptcy, incompetence, and inability to perform the functions of the office.
Judges who have been removed from service by way of a tribunal include former Deputy Chief Justice Dr Nancy Baraza, Justices Tom Mbaluto and Vitalis Juma and most recently, Justice Joseph Mutava.
-Additional reporting by Ruth Mbula.