Inquiries put judiciary on the spot

July 21, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI July 21 – A leading Kenyan scholar has blamed the increased reliance on commissions of inquiry to unravel critical matters in the country, on the failure of the judiciary to win public confidence.

Professor Githu Muigai, who is a practising lawyer, don and a judge at the African Union (AU) Court, told Capital News that though Commissions of Inquiry have world over been instrumental in digging out truths, especially in matters which are ‘unsuitable for the judicial and parliamentary processes’, their adoption is an indication of failure in a country’s judicial system.

Professor Muigai admits that inquiries are a relatively expensive way of arbitrating and/or seeking justice, but are often necessitated by undeniably prescribed circumstances, which could be best solved by the courts.

 “I would support the formation of commissions of inquiry if they are well managed. I cannot say that there is something inherently wrong with the commission but would probably take the view that it is the implementation of the recommendations that ought to be of concern,” he said.

He said that such reliance, though justifiable, needs to be corrected especially from the outset and this lies squarely on the executive arm of the government.

Professor Muigai particularly faulted the executive on the process of vetting the judges who are appointed to serve in the judiciary, which he said, was shrouded in secrecy.

This, in his opinion, is part of the reason for low public confidence in the judicial systems, which has consequently repelled them (the public) from seeking arbitration in courts.

“I do not think the Goldenberg Commission of Inquiry was necessary ten years after the offences were committed unless we were admitting that the law mechanism in this country was less than optimum,” he remarked.

He proposed a review of the performance of judges, the selection criteria and other pertinent issues such as expanding the Judicial Service Commission, to ensure vast representation. 

“I believe that there is a lot of serious work to be done on the Kenyan Judiciary,” Professor Muigai said.

Similar sentiments have been echoed by various other leaders and the general public.

University of Nairobi Catholic Chaplain and don father Dominic Wamugunda opined that commissions appointed to inquire into issues of national concern remain relevant only when their recommendations are acted upon.

Father Wamugunda held that the ideal way to ensure that results are seen was by implementing whichever reports and recommendations that are made by the commissions.

“I would want to see a situation where when a commission is formed, its findings are made public for us to know what exactly happened,” Father Wamugunda remarked.

Both Professor Muigai and Father Wamugunda are however not averse to the formation of these commissions.

They maintain that the effectiveness of any commission of inquiry is dependent on how well it is managed.


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