The spectre of the Chief Justice of a civilised nation publicly lamenting over the myriad frustrations afflicting the Judiciary — one of the three arms of government — is appalling and demonstrates the depths to which we have sunk.
Critics may be quick to dismiss Chief Justice David Maraga’s pronouncements as trivial, but that is to miss the point.
There is a serious and fundamental problem between the Judiciary, the Executive and even the Legislature.
Since the unprecedented Supreme Court ruling that nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s electoral victory in 2017 and he threatened to “revisit” the verdict, things have never been the same again.
The Judiciary appears marked to be demolished and forced to kowtow to the Executive. The surest way of doing so is through severe cuts of budgets and privileges. That has happened.
But the matter goes much deeper. For one, the Judiciary has cut a name for making harsh rulings against the Executive, challenging assumed authority and spelling out the proper law.
That has never gone down well with the Executive, which, on several occasions, has termed the Judiciary rogue and even profiled judges renowned for tough rulings that go against the Establishment.
Yet that independence is what Kenyans voted for when they enacted the current Constitution that created demarcations between the various institutions of government and, importantly, entrenched the Judiciary as the bastion of justice.
Never again would Kenyans want to go back to the past when the Judiciary was an appendage of the Executive and judicial decisions were made elsewhere only to be executed in the courts.
Secondly, the Judiciary has become an integral element in determination of national leadership.
Twice since the current Constitution came into being in 2010, outcomes of presidential elections have had to be determined in court.
In 2013 and 2017, the results of the presidential election were challenged and it fell on the courts to arbitrate.
Occupying such a pivotal position obviously makes the Judiciary an object of contestation.
The country is headed for another, critical election in 2022, and that is crucial because the current President will be exiting the scene.
Transition is delicate and there are strong tendencies by power wielders to seek to influence the process.
Some of the attacks on the Chief Justice and his judicial officials is also intended to intimidate and force them out.
RULE OF LAW
To this, Mr Maraga was categorical: he is not bowing out due to pressure. Such resolve is important. External players should not be allowed to influence who occupies top judicial offices.
Frustrating the Judiciary through budget cuts and ill-treatment of judicial officers is unacceptable.
We demand a strong and independent Judiciary with proper funding and resources to defend justice for all and promote the rule of law.