NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 26 – Kenya’s first ever Supreme Court got down to business on Friday after the first judges were sworn into office at State House Nairobi.
Justices Philip Tunoi, Jackton Ojwang’, Mohammed Ibrahim, Njoki Ndung’u and Smokin Wanjala will now sit in the country’s highest court alongside the president, Willy Mutunga, and the vice-president Nancy Baraza.
The judges were sworn in at State House Nairobi following Thursday’s landmark dismissal of a case that had been filed to challenge their appointments.
The case had been filed by women’s organisations which had argued that gender balance was not observed in the appointments.
The three-judge constitutional bench ruled that the Judicial Service Commission had not breached the Constitution in naming the five to the highest court in the land.
The court dismissed the case by women’s lobbies which had argued that the nomination of one woman out of the five judges was against the constitutional requirement of not having more than two-thirds of the same gender in public bodies.
While taking up office after the brief swearing-in ceremony, the judges promised to give their best to reform the Judiciary by restoring confidence in the justice system in the country.
The five judges pledged to serve Kenyans diligently guided by the national interest.
“I am truly humbled and honoured to be appointed and sworn in as a Supreme Court Judge. We shall not let Kenyans down; we shall develop ground breaking jurisprudence that will take the rule of law to the heights that have never been seen in this country,” Justice Ibrahim pledged.
Justice Wanjala said it was the beginning of a long journey of steering democracy. He at the same time acknowledged the high expectations from Kenyans as he promised together with the other judges they would do their best to deliver.
Justice Wanjala who appreciated the public process of vetting the judges also recognised the crucial role they would play in the interpretation of the new Constitution.
The only woman out of the five judges appointed to the Supreme Court Justice Ndung’u said it was important they were sworn in on Friday just days before the August 27 deadline could have otherwise led to the flouting of the law.
She said it was good that they were sworn in time to avoid a clash: “If we had not been sworn in today, the likelihood of having flouted the Constitution would have happened. That would have not been a good sign.”
She said once rules and modalities for running the Supreme Court are set the team will be on course with its work.
“The small delay that we have had means that we have delayed in setting up the administration of the Supreme Court,” she added.
Justice Tunoi said he looked forward to working in view of earning the judiciary respect that it lost in past years. He also urged his team to ensure mistakes done in the past were not repeated in the reformed Judiciary.
Justice Ojwang believed addressing corruption and laxity in the Judiciary were key points that the Supreme Court will ensure are no longer a hindrance to delivery of justice.
Meanwhile, Judicial Service Commission member Ahmednasir Abdillahi said the Supreme Court was likely to become fully operational once the Chief Justice and the Deputy CJ who are also members of the Supreme Court complete writing rules and modalities of the court.
“Every court has its own rules. The Supreme Court will have its own rules and it is in the final stage of drafting. The CJ and the DCJ have been doing it for the last three months, probably in a month’s time we will have those rules so that this court can properly function, parties can come where they are allowed to come,” he explained.
During the swearing in at State House, President Mwai Kibaki said he believed they would work to promote justice and serve Kenyans without fear or favour.
He also said the swearing in of the Supreme Court judges marked an important step in reforming key institutions.
“With all these reforms that we are implementing now, I am quite sure that the country will make good progress,” President Kibaki asserted.