NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 2 – The Kenya Human Rights Commission has urged House Speaker Kenneth Marende to withhold debate on controversial judicial nominees until there is clarity that proper consultations were made.
Executive Director Muthoni Wanyeki said it was paramount for President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to agree on the nominations before the process moves forward.
She added that the recent public spat between the two leaders was unwarranted as they risked derailing the entire judicial reform process.
"We are not saying that consultations did not happen… but they did not happen in the sense that they reached agreement. If one party of the grand coalition government has disavowed the nominations, clearly consultations were not sufficient to reach agreement," she argued.
The civil society also said it would, in conjunction with others, hold peaceful demonstrations on Thursday from Uhuru Park to Parliament, to protest the nomination process.
Ms Muthoni added that appointments must be premised on competence, integrity, equality and equity in representation.
"If you look at three of the four names you realise that they are not names that would lead Kenyans to believe that they are capable of bringing about the thorough transformation of the judiciary that we require," she claimed.
Meanwhile, a group of lawyers separately took issue with House Speaker Kenneth Marende for taking over the raging dispute saying he did not have the jurisdiction.
Lawyer Evans Monari argued that the Speaker should instead allow Parliament to resolve the standoff through debate as laid out in the law.
He further criticised the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for questioning the appointments on grounds that it was not consulted saying the argument did not hold any water.
The transitional clause in the constitution does not call on the principals to engage the JSC in the nominations. It is only the President in consultation with the PM and approval of Parliament that appoints the Chief Justice.
"The JSC has no powers to nominate the CJ, let alone the Attorney General or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who are members of the Executive and that must be left to the Executive. So for the JSC to pretend that they have the power to do it is actually being dishonest," he added.
He also asked Kenyans to centre their arguments on integrity questions that could up on any of the proposed candidates.
"I think we are testing each others\’ nerves in this country. The President says I consulted the PM\’ and the PM says yes we consulted but we didn\’t conclude. The correct way forward is for people to remember that at the end of this bruising, we still have a country that we live in," he said.
Lawyer Mark Mwenje, on his part, defended President Kibaki from accusations of flouting the law in the appointments saying he acted in accordance with the law. He also asked Kenyans not to tribalise the appointments.
"Everyone is just complaining about the method that was used and the truth is the PM and the President will never agree without negotiating. If you think they will sit down, hug and even go play golf together then that will never happen," he said.
Lawyer George Muchiri also asked Kenyans to remain vigilant in ensuring the law was upheld in its entirety.
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