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Kenya CJ shrugs off quit calls

KISUMU, Kenya, Mar 24 – Kenya’s embattled Chief Justice Evan Gicheru has said he will not resign, and has told those agitating for his exit from office that he is there to stay.

A day after Justice Minister Martha Karua said the President would soon respond to an application to have the CJ removed from office, the head of the Judiciary said those opposed to his tenure in office were trying to hold him back from reforms he had instituted in the bench.

“I am not moved by everyday calls to quit. These are people bent to derail my sprit to put reforms in the Judiciary. Those saying that I am anti reforms within the judiciary have eyes yet they do not see,” he said.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK), the International Commission of Jurists, the Federation of Women Lawyers, and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights are seeking the removal of Justice Gicheru from office, accusing him of incompetence, irresponsiveness to calls for reforms and taking a back seat on landmark cases.

They say the Chief Justice has failed to institute transparency and merit in the process of appointing judges, instead opening it up to cartels.

Un-rebuffed, Justice Gicheru told reporters in Kisumu that such allegations would not deter him from pursuing his plans for the judiciary.

“Before you question my ability, why not first take stock of what was there before I took over and weigh with the present status,” he said.

The Chief Justice further denied that the hiring of judges was based on cronyism and nepotism as alleged by Justice Minister Martha Karua on Monday.

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He said that could not be the case because there is a set out criteria for their appointment.

He clarified that he is only a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which is in charge of the hiring process.

Therefore, he said, he was not the one who was answerable on that matter but the entire panel.

Ms Karua on Tuesday told officials from the LSK that they would get a response from the Office of the President in the next few days to their petition for the CJ’s removal.

The country’s top judge has been involved in a stand off with Ms Karua who maintains that the CJ is not for reforms in the judiciary.

The fiery Justice Minister yesterday told off the CJ giving a case in point: “In 2007, I consulted with the Law Society of Kenya and the Chief Justice and proposed that criteria for sourcing judicial appointees and especially judges be developed. The Law Society of Kenya working with my office and the Law Reform Commission worked on draft criteria and forwarded it to the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice and JSC ignored the proposal and continue with business as usual. A glance at appointments in the Judiciary reveals favouritism, cronyism and incompetence.”

She continued: “He is aware that the swearing in of the judges (in December 2006) was held back because the integrity and competence of some of the nominees (forwarded by the Judicial Service Commission) was brought to question.”

In an article published in its entirety on our website on Monday, Ms Karua concluded that the people had lost faith in the Judiciary and could not wait any longer for reforms.

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