, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo on Monday took issue with the ruling issued by the Court of Appeal, putting a stop to the process of vetting judges and magistrates, terming it ‘unfair.’
Speaking at a forum on leadership and integrity in Nairobi, the Justice Minister argued that the ruling threatened to delay key constitutional reforms including the process of setting up 80 new boundaries, thereby undermining the Constitution.
He noted that judges would be required to resolve any disputes arising from the process of setting out the new electoral units and it was crucial to vet them before they embarked on the exercise.
“Kenyans will have three months to challenge the decision made by the electoral body on the boundaries. Are those challenges going to be put before judges who have not been vetted?” he asked.
“This can only happen in Kenya and it’s irritating because we read one section of the law and think we are very learned,” he quipped.
He also asked Attorney General Githu Muigai to appeal against the ruling as it bore significant repercussions on judicial reforms.
The Court of Appeal issued the ruling on January 31 following an appeal filed by Dennis Mogambi, a law student, challenging the legality of the vetting exercise.
“That injunction should be set aside as quickly as possible and the judges need to know that it is very unfair. Disputes arising from the boundaries should only go before judges who are beyond reproach; that is the only way,” he stressed.
Kilonzo further expressed concern over some of the court injunctions that had sought and granted by several Kenyans arguing that they were unwarranted.
He called for caution over such injunctions saying that they risked undermining the Constitution and were only meant to detract the implementation of the law.
Other than the injunction on the vetting of judges, Kilonzo cited the recent ruling by the Constitutional Court barring any discussions on the presidential suitability of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto.
“I respect the court decisions but some of the injunctions are a bit weird. While the injunction on the vetting of judges and magistrates tops the list, the injunction stopping people from discussing presidential candidates is also ridiculous,” he retorted.
“For heaven’s sake don’t give us some of these decisions,” he said.
He added that it was important for the Constitutional Court to respect freedom of expression and association as set out in the Constitution.
The Justice Minister further criticised the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko indicating that he would not initiate any proceedings against suspended Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza.
He maintained that the DPP was an independent body that had the ability to run its own processes without pegging its decisions on those made by other bodies.
“Tell the DPP that I don’t agree with him at all. I don’t think you can prosecute Kenyans at their convenience; you should prosecute them when crimes occur. We are either having a new dawn or a false dawn and we must have a new dawn under my watch,” he said.
Tobiko said he would only charge the suspended Deputy Chief Justice once a tribunal set up to investigate her conduct concluded its investigations.
Baraza is accused of threatening a security guard at the Village Market. Although the tribunal investigating the incident was sworn in, it cannot summon her following a court order.