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Catholics unhappy with judicial nominees

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 24 – The Catholic Church on Tuesday asked Parliament to vigorously scrutinise the integrity and moral values of nominees to the offices of Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice.

Nairobi Archbishop John Cardinal Njue told journalists that the Church was not satisfied with the character of the individuals nominated to the crucial offices and faulted the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) of giving academic qualifications undue significance over ethical values.

"This is a very important office and we need to ask ourselves, for example when it comes to the issue of family… the issue of the life, do the people that are concerned uphold these same values?" he wondered.

Accompanied by 25 bishops, Cardinal Njue said the commission should have ensured that as much as the candidates met constitutional requirements which include professionalism, the moral aspect was equally critical.

"These esteemed officers must satisfy all constitutional criteria including high moral character, integrity and impartiality.

The Catholic Bishops also said JSC should have settled on candidates who meet Kenyan religious and African cultural values which are sensitive to family.

When taken to task to specifically mention what in the two candidates made them fail the morality test, the bishops were unwilling to give details.

Cardinal Njue instead urged Parliament to consider views raised by the public when discussing the list of the nominees expected this week.

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Dr Willy Mutunga and Nancy Baraza were nominated to the two posts of Chief Justice and Deputy CJ respectively and their fate now lies with Parliament.

This was not the first time the nomination of the two has raised varied opinions from different quarters.

Issues have been raised over an ear stud spotted by Dr Mutunga, while Ms Baraza is writing her PhD thesis on the rights of gay persons.

Last week, the National Council of Churches of Kenya rejected the nomination of Dr Mutunga and Ms Baraza saying their characters were in conflict with Christian values and beliefs.

The NCCK as well argued that the two positions should be taken up by people who would help build a stable nation.

Eldoret North MP William Ruto is among politicians who have criticised the nomination of Dr Mutunga as CJ.

On the other hand, civil society groups, politicians across the divide, the public and the international community have welcomed the nominations describing the process used by the JSC as transparent and competitive.

President Mwai Kibaki in consultation with the Prime Minister approved the two nominees and also settled on Keriako Tobiko for the position of Director of Public Prosecutions.

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