, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 17 – Some Legal associations in the country are lobbying for one of their members to be appointed the next Chief Justice, instead of any of the sitting judges.
At a joint press conference on Friday morning, the Law Society of Kenya, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), FIDA Kenya and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights argued that the current judges cannot qualify since it is unlikely they will have been vetted as required in the new constitution by February when new Chief Justice should be appointed.
“Owing to the appointing procedures including looking for foreign judges there will be significant delay before the process starts and it is likely it will not start until well into the next Chief Justice,” said ICJ Chief Executive George Kegoro.
“…………. and we don’t want a situation where one is appointed and then vetted later,” added FIDA Chairperson Naomi Wagereka.
Mr Kegoro added that, “the people of Kenya have lost confidence in the current judges as shown by overwhelmingly voting for the new Constitution which calls the revamping of the Judiciary.
“We want some fresh air into the Judiciary,” said Commissioner Lawrence Mute of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights who represented his organisation in the meeting.
Under the banner of ‘Think tank for Judicial Reforms’ the lawyers are fighting for key participation in the reforms of the Judiciary including the vetting of judges and new appointments.
President Mwai Kibaki is expected to appoint the next CJ in consultations with the Prime Minister after recommendations from a reconstituted Judicial Service Commission and with the approval of Parliament. The same process will be followed in appointing the Deputy CJ and new judges.
The new JSC is expected to be in place by the end of next month. The Judicial Service Bill which will set up the body has been approved by Cabinet and is now waiting parliamentary debate and approval.
Ms Wagereka who read the statement said the lawyers’ associations have compiled a list of possible candidates after evidence based research both on conduct from which the President should appoint the new CJ and another of those who don’t meet the criteria owing to their integrity.
“As we speak now LSK has a list of 8,000 lawyers, so there is a big pool to select from. We will identify probably a list of ten people to choose from and send it to the President,” she said adding “from our disciplinary committee we know the people who should not be elected to that office.”
On the process of vetting the current judges and magistrates, the lawyers are fighting their exclusion from the panel that will spearhead the vetting after the Cabinet decided that the six local experts will instead be recruited by the Public service Commission (PSC) as opposed to a proposal that would have seen the legal associations, civil society and the private sector nominate the experts.
Ms Wagereka said most of the commissioners at the PSC cannot pass the credibility test as they are adversely mentioned in former scandalous corrupt activities like the Ndung’u land report.
“Should the government proceed and appoint the experts through the PSC then we the legal profanity of the country will completely withdraw from the vetting process,” she said.
“We have all seen the consequences of withdrawal of support in the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission and we don’t want a repeat of that,” added Mr Kegoro.
According to the Bill, a tribunal consisting of nine experts, three lawyers, three judges from the commonwealth and three non-judges will be established to spearhead the vetting process.