Mutunga, Baraza choice is a new dawn for Kenya

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BY SALIM LONE

Today we can yet again celebrate Kenya\’s greatness. The nominations of Willy Mutunga and Nancy Baraza reflect another extraordinary milestone in the growing democratic space that Kenyans have been able to expand under the Grand Coalition Government, building on the democratic breakthroughs that began in the NARC era.

And by empowering the Judicial Service Commission members to undertake a remarkably transparent decision-making process in which merit and integrity were the primary criteria, the new Constitution continues to prove its potential for enabling Kenyans to fulfill our immense potential.

In setting its own agenda on the process for selection, in the transparency of its proceedings and its commitment to a genuine consensus-driven outcome, JSC members have established historic precedents which other deliberative bodies must be pushed to follow.  Every JSC member shone, but Commissioner Ahmednasir was the first among equals.

After having been hailed world-wide for a Constitution which breached unprecedented ground in entrenching people’s rights, with these two appointments Kenya has provided another role model for the world in giving the civil society an important role in governance, going beyond even the United States, which has stringent checks and balances but leaves with the Executive the control of the nomination for powerful positions such as the Chief Justice’s.  

Ironically, while our judiciary overall has enjoyed pitifully low esteem, the quick post-Constitution landmark examples of independence and integrity have emerged from the judicial field. If confirmed, Dr Mutunga and Ms Baraza will have a sufficient body of law reformers to mobilise for a new era of the rule of law independent of dictates from the Executive.

Even though our nation faces extremely complex challenges, this breakthrough should provide Kenyans hope that progress can be made in resolving our seemingly intractable problems in governance. What is required is leadership, and a commitment first and foremost to national cohesion and democratic political competition.            

(Salim Lone is an advisor to Prime Minister Raila Odinga)

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