Recent events in Kenya sound alarm bells that the country may have taken a dangerous path.
This trend needs to be urgently addressed by all the actors involved, and particularly those who cherish democracy and the rule of law.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair once opined that, "anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: Freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police".
These last few weeks, Kenya seems to have chosen the road many would not opt for.
The 2007 post-election violence was a watershed moment for judicial reforms.
Informed by the fact that the crisis was attributed, in part, to lack of faith and trust in a Judiciary that was perceived to be under the control of the Executive, it was clear that radical reforms were required to ensure its independence, and in so doing, regain public confidence.
From this experience, it was necessary to begin a process that would restore our judicial system.
The National Dialogue and Reconciliation Agreement signed on February 1, 2008, among others, outlined Agenda No. 4, which sought to offer long-term solutions to the political standoff then.
The National Accord and Reconciliation Act, 2008 brought forth the Committee of Experts that spearheaded efforts that heralded the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
This significantly changed the structure of the State in many ways to cure electoral injustices and offered voters a choice of wide representation.
Following these developments, the Judiciary slowly began to regain its lost independence, confidence and trust.
By 2013, there was growing confidence in the judicial system and optimism with its head, Justice Willy Mutunga, considered a reformist.
After the 2013 elections, the opposition disputed and challenged the results at the Supreme Court without success.
This was an indication of trust in our judicial system and a major milestone towards building trust in the institution and the rule of law.
As is widely acknowledged, the independence of the Judiciary from the influence of the other arms of government is essential to the achievement and proper functioning of a free, just and democratic society.
However, before and after the August 8 General Election, we have witnessed actions that are an affront to the progress made in establishing constitutionalism in Kenya.
Four TV stations - KTN, NTV, Citizen TV and INOORO TV - were shutdown for defying an order not to cover the “swearing-in” of Nasa leader Raila Odinga as the “People’s President”.
The order violates the rights to access to information, freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
Article 34 guarantees freedom and independence of media, while Article 35 grants citizens the right of access to information.
These are rights and freedoms that we have fought for before and after independence and should be guarded jealously.
The government further defied a court order to reinstate the broadcast signals of the affected stations.
While they are now back on air, it took an inexplicably long time to comply with the various court orders.
The government is setting a trend where court orders are disregarded by state officers who took an oath of office to protect and uphold the Constitution.
The lawyer Miguna Miguna deportation debacle and its handling by the State raises significant concerns that if not stopped, citizens’ rights could be violated in a manner akin to the political persecutions of the single-party era.
The rule of law should be a guiding principle for all citizens of the land and is the cord that holds the state and its ecosystem together.
Disregard the rule of law and the entice edifice could come tumbling down.
RULE OF LAW
As Chief Justice David Maraga noted in his statement, “compliance with court orders is not an option for any individual or institution …. It is a crucial matter of constitutional and civic obligation”.
It is important that we guard the constitutional strides we have made as a country since independence and to continue building upon that foundation for greater prosperity.
Anything to the contrary could take us back in every aspect of our national development.
The three arms of the government should operate within their realms, respecting one another as the Constitution demands.
Mr Kimeu is the executive director of Transparency International Kenya. [email protected]