When in 2003, the Government sent packing a half of the judiciary in its "radical surgery”, many Kenyans sighed with relief thinking that the axing of the judges and magistrates would bring sanity and root out the rot that has been synonymous with the crucial arm of government.
Majority of those sent packing were accused of corruption. But there were other serious issues which were also considered including incompetence, nepotism and all manner of inconsistencies. It was also widely expected that the judiciary would be modernised, fresh minds appointed and a significant reduction in backlog of cases that had bogged down the system.
It was also the hope of many Kenyans that the independence of the judiciary would finally be achieved and its autonomy guaranteed. Unfortunately, this has been a pipe dream.
Six years down the line the Judiciary has suffered an unprecedented loss of confidence which, understandably, has led to calls for another surgery.
The problem that has since independence bedevilled the justice system is one the appointment of judges which most often than not is done in a secretive manner which lacks all the elements of transparent process; This is nothing new and has contributed to the bad reputation of the system in the public eye to the detriment of the judiciary.
Even the recent post election violence has been attributed to lack of institutional and legal ability of the judiciary as an independent and just arbiter of disputes.
The recent appointment of judges has also shown the common culture of impunity, recklessness and arrogance being exhibited at its best. Unfortunately, it seems this trend will continue to dog the system.
I however must admit that there are some judicial officers who take their work seriously. These officers need our support. When on Thursday I saw Justice Muga Apondi go through the lengthy judgment in Tom Cholmondeley’s case, one wonders how do such people cope with that kind of work?
I saw the judge struggling to go through the judgement for three hours. I know for a fact that this judge normally carries loads of work home, does his own research, and sometimes types the judgement himself especially in such a sensitive case of immense public interest. Surely, for this officer to be effective there must be reforms.
Fully fledged reforms, beginning from the work place- the judges should be provided with air conditioned chambers, research assistants and stenographers for verbatim records as is being done in Parliament through Hansard.
The Judiciary must also be set free from the executive, judicial posts even for judges need to be advertised.
It’s only with such reforms, that we can have confidence with our judicial system and avoid bloodshed such as the one witnessed early last year.