Judiciary reform vital to fight graft

Thursday March 3 2016

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Concerns about decay in the Judiciary continue to dominate public discourse, especially in view of the fact that several attempts to reform the institution have not realised the desired results.

A credible Judiciary is crucial for political stability and citizens’ enjoyment of their rights.

However, it is emerging that Kenya is far from creating a dependable and trusted Judiciary.

In a preliminary end-of-assignment report, the chairman of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, Mr Sharad Rao, has unequivocally submitted that the Judiciary is corrupt to the core and that even after working for four years to weed out the corrupt, nothing much has been achieved.

Corruption, ineptitude, and nepotism are deeply ingrained in the Judiciary.

The admission is unnerving. It depicts a hopeless situation and leaves the public piqued.

The vetting board was perceived as a vital instrument in transforming the Judiciary.

It was a creation of the Constitution, which decreed that an independent body be formed to establish the suitability of judges and magistrates to continue occupying those offices.


The Judicial Service Commission was to be formed to take charge of the recruitment of the officers.

With these two institutions, it was presumed that order and sanity would be restored in judicial corridors.

Underpinning this was the desire to recreate the Judiciary to become a pillar for justice and distinguish it from the past, when it was a tool for political domination and a den for sleaze.

Although the vetting opened up the judicial officers to public scrutiny, that did not cure the inherent disease that continues to contaminate the institution.

This was one in a series of attempts to remake the Judiciary.

When the Narc administration ascended to power in 2003, it ordered what was billed to be a radical surgery of the Judiciary and consequently, many judges and magistrates were thrown out because they failed the integrity test.

However, that did not end graft.


Taken together with the admissions by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga that corruption thrives at the Judiciary, the new report cannot be taken lightly.

Corruption, sloth, and sleaze are deeply rooted at the Judiciary, but the war must not stall.

On the contrary, this should provide the impetus to seek other alternatives to slay the dragon.

What happened in 2007, when a dispute over the presidential election led to vicious violence since the matter could not be settled in court due to mistrust, underscores the desire for reform of the Judiciary.