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Women demand a slice of the action

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – Women\’s organisations that have challenged President Mwai Kibaki\’s nominees to key constitutional offices in court are now demanding that a woman must be appointed to one of the judicial positions.

Lawyers Judy Thongori and Alice Wahome insist that there are enough qualified women who can either be named Chief Justice, Attorney General or Director of Public Prosecutions.

"If it is to be found that the most fit Kenyan to occupy the position of Chief Justice is a woman, we then expect the next vertical appointment of Attorney General will be filled by a man and vice versa," said Ms Thongori.

"We are talking about the principle of alternate, both vertical and horizontal," added Ms Thongori.

The organisations argued that the three posts were very critical and had equal seniority and therefore the principle of gender equality as stipulated in the law should be followed.

"We see these three positions as posts in the administration of justice section. We hope that this time round (after withdrawing the former nominees) they will be careful and they will observe the spirit and the letter of the Constitution," said Ms Wahome.

President Mwai Kibaki on Tuesday bowed to mounting pressure and withdrew his controversial list of nominees to the three judicial offices and that of Controller of Budget

He had earlier nominated Court of Appeal Judge Alnashir Visram as the Chief Justice and lawyers Githu Muigai and Kioko Kilukumi as Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions respectively. He had also nominated William Kirwa for Controller of Budget but this was opposed by the women on the basis of gender imbalance.

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The CJ will now be recruited by the Judicial Service Commission, while Director of Public Prosecutions and Controller of Budget shall be advertised through the Public Service Commission.

In regard to the nomination of the Attorney General, the President has invited the Prime Minister for further consultations. The two leaders on Wednesday met for about two hours but it was not clear whether they agreed on the way forward as regards the office of the AG.

The women have in the meantime indicated they will press ahead with their case which is set for hearing from March 2 before High Court judges Kalpana Rawal, George Dulu and Luka Kimaru on a day-to-day basis.

The eight applicants included the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness, Caucus for Women\’s Leadership, Tomorrow Child Initiative and Women in Law and Development.

Others are Development through Media, Coalition on Violence Against Women, Young Women Leadership Institute and the League of Kenya Women Voters.

The women also want the appointment of the Attorney General done competitively.

"I don\’t know any other way of inviting competitive bidding other than opening up to the public so that all those who qualify apply and through an accountable process we can pick the best for Kenya," said Ms Thongori,

Ms Wahome added: "We need to realise that the role of the Attorney General is not to advise the Executive alone but the entire three arms of government so we need to open it up to any qualified Kenyan."

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