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The side of Wako that won him my heartfelt farewell

Saturday August 20 2011

 

By AHMEDNASIR ABDULLAHI

Attorney-General Amos Wako is set to retire in a week’s time. He has served for nearly 20 years in the office.

Due to the long duration he has served as Attorney-General, Mr Wako has often been criticised and vilified. He has rarely been praised for the service he has given to his country.

I, for one, have been very critical of him. Like many Kenyans I could not understand how a man with the enormous powers of his office failed to prosecute the many cases of theft of public funds.

For instance, he has done very little in both Goldenberg and the Anglo Leasing scandals. In fact when I was chairman of the Law Society of Kenya, I tried to privately prosecute him for the Anglo Leasing scam.

I have rarely interacted with Mr Wako to understand better the persona behind the smiling face that has been a constant fixture of our national life.

He remained an enigma as far as his philosophy, personality and thought process were concerned. I had no doubt that his personality was unique and intriguing.

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I finally got a chance to know another side of Mr Wako in January this year. Both of us were members of the Judicial Service Commission.

As Kenyans know, our task was to recruit the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and five judges of the Supreme Court.

Right from the start, I was most suspicious of the intentions of Mr Wako. I was very fearful of his agenda. I thought his parting shot was to put at the helm of the institution a dinosaur from the era he served as AG.

Mr Wako surprised and shocked me. I could not believe his visionary views and his progressive intentions. During the recruitment process, Mr Wako was the leading light.

He insisted that nothing short of the most shocking and radical reconfiguration of the Judiciary will do.

I vividly remember one day he said to the commissioners: “We have messed the old Constitution and got into trouble as a country. Please let us ensure that we strictly adhere to the new Constitution, so that we get it right, and especially now that we are beginning a new era”.

Kenyans should know that it is Mr Wako who insisted that the process must be transparent and open to the public.

Historic role

At every point in time when we needed to interpret an issue, Mr Wako would advise on the most liberal, people-centred and progressive one. His role in the recruitment of the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court was historic and I am personally indebted to him for a number of issues.

First, Mr Wako, as a graduate from Dar es Salaam University, was a high achiever in school. He was a top student. Many of the candidates we interviewed were his contemporaries in Dar es Salaam.

When we started the interview process, his encyclopaedic knowledge of the candidates’ background was priceless. He is the one who guided the commission on the emphasis we placed on academic achievement.

Second, Mr Wako was again very influential in insisting that we make a clean break with the past. He pleaded with the commissioners not to repeat the mistakes we made in the past as a country. He insisted that the new era must be built on blocks that were not used in the past.

Third, Mr Wako had an excellent understanding of the members of the Judiciary. He guided the commission expertly and was, in my view, the most influential member.

That we picked the candidates we nominated is, in my view, greatly influenced by Mr Wako. We owe him a debt for the manner he forced us to learn from the mistakes of the past and on his insistence that we must get it right.

For me, this is a priceless legacy. I thank him and wish him best of luck in his future endeavours.

Ahmednasir Abdullahi is the publisher, Nairobi Law Monthly [email protected]

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