, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 – Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has once again dug in his heels over the independence of the Judiciary, this time warning Prime Minister Raila Odinga over his remarks on a High Court ruling on the election date.
In a statement, the Chief Justice said the PM’s conduct was unacceptable and “reeks of impunity.”
“Mr Odinga is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya. As a creature of the law, he is a critical and fundamental arm of the Executive. He must be aware that he bears a duty to uphold and protect the independence of the Judiciary as required by the Constitution – especially in instances where he is unhappy with its decision,” Mutunga said in the hard hitting statement.
The Chief Justice was incensed by statement attributed to Odinga in which he allegedly said that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in arriving at the March 4 2013 date was interpreting a decision by ‘korti ya bandia’ roughly equated to mean a fake or kangaroo court.
“It is therefore, distressing that individuals who bear a special responsibility to uphold the Constitution because of their leadership role would appear to vilify the courts,” the Chief Justice who is the President of the Supreme Court said.
The announcement by the IEBC on the election date has elicited varying opinions amongst Kenya’s leadership with the Prime Minister and his Orange Democratic Party opposing the March 4, 2013 poll date.
On Sunday during Capital FM’s political show Talk360, the IEBC’s Chief Executive Officer James Oswago had indicated that the electoral body was flexible and could hold the polls on December 17 if the two principals agreed on an early date, or the courts reversed the earlier ruling.
This is not the first time the Chief Justice had stood his ground in defending the Judiciary against apparent interference by the Executive. On December 2 last year, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Justice Nicolas Ombija who had issued a warrant of arrest against Sudan president Omar al Bashir.
Justice Ombija issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest if he sets foot in Kenya following an application by the International Commission of Jurists (Kenya) which argues Kenya is under obligation to detain him as he is facing indictment by the International Criminal Court.
That decision prompted a diplomatic row between the two countries and the Executive – through the Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula – criticised the court decision.
That matter is still pending at the Court of Appeal and the warrant of arrest is still in force.
The Chief Justice has in the meantime appealed to leaders to be conscious of the heavy ramifications some of their statements could have on the public and cautioned them “to exercise their rights to free speech within the realm of the law.”
On Monday, Education Minister Sam Ongeri allayed fears that the March polls would disrupt schooling saying his ministry was willing to alter the learning calendar and allow students to go early on half-term to pave way for the elections.
Other leaders including Eldoret North MP William Ruto and his Gichugu counterpart Martha Karua have voiced their reservations on the poll date and have urged the IEBC to rescind the decision.