How Kibaki laid the foundation for judicial reforms

Economy

How Kibaki laid the foundation for judicial reforms


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The Supreme Court of Kenya. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

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Summary

  • When he came to power in 2003, President Kibaki appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate corruption in the Judiciary.
  • The commission, chaired by former Judge Aaron Ringera went around the country gathering evidence against corrupt judges and magistrates.

Former President Mwai Kibaki, who passed away on Friday in Nairobi, reformed the judiciary over his 10-year rule and reduced the stranglehold that the executive had on the third arm of the State during the late president Daniel Moi’s 24-year rule.

When he came to power in 2003, President Kibaki appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate corruption in the Judiciary.

The commission, chaired by former Judge Aaron Ringera went around the country gathering evidence against corrupt judges and magistrates and in the end, recommended the sacking of more than 20 judges and 82 magistrates in what later came to be known as the radical surgery in the Judiciary.

The clean-up, somehow restored confidence in the Judiciary, which had hitherto been associated with endemic corruption, slow wheels of justice, excessive bureaucracy and poor terms of service for judges and administrative staff.

Unlike his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi, Kibaki was not known to interfere with the work of the Judges.

He allowed them to work freely and the joke in the corridors of power was of landline calls that came direct from State House. The calls stopped during President Kibaki’s reign.

When the Anglo Leasing scandal blew up, some of his friends like Makerere alumni and his first Finance Minister David Mwiraria were implicated. President Kibaki did not interfere with the trial and in his last days on earth, Mr Mwiraria had to face trial.

Many wondered why President Kibaki did not want to intervene and save his friend Mwiraria, who was credited for instilling financial discipline in government.

As the Finance Minister in Kibaki’s administration, Mwiraria was credited for stabilising Kenya’s fluctuating interest rates and turning around the economy after many years of ruin under Moi’s rule.

It was during President Kibaki’s reign that the prestigious Senior Counsel bar was introduced in 2003 and to qualify one had to have served as Chairman of the LSK.

The rules were however changed in October 2008 and lawyers asked to send in their applications to be considered for the prestigious club.

President Kibaki later recognized 15 lawyers and former chairpersons of the LSK and considered them for the rank and dignity of Senior Counsel.

The Senior Counsel members include former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, retired Court of Appeal Judge GBM Kariuki, Lee Muthoga, retired Attorney-General Githu Muigai, his predecessor and Busia Senator Amos Wako, Environment CS Keriako Tobiko, his foreign Affairs counterpart Raychelle Omamo, Mr Ahmednasir Abdullahi, Siaya Senator James Orengo, University of Nairobi School of Law Dean Patricia Kameri-Mbote and Mr Pheroze Nowrojee.

The law says the President may grant a letter of conferment to any person of irreproachable professional conduct who has rendered exemplary service to the legal and public service in Kenya conferring upon him the rank and dignity of Senior Counsel.

A second clean-up at the Judiciary and what was known as Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Board was initiated in 2011. The board, chaired by Sharad Rao recommended the removal of yet more judges for failing integrity tests among other set criteria.

Mr Kibaki will be remembered for many other things that put the country back on track.

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