NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 25 – Kenya’s most senior judge Riaga Omolo is among four judges who have been declared unfit to serve in the Judiciary, following vetting whose outcome was announced on Wednesday.
The Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Board has also dismissed Justices Emmanuel O’Kubasu, Samuel Bosire and Joseph Nyamu.
Board chairman Sharad Rao said they found that Justice Omolo was guilty of authoritarianism on the Bench and inconsistency in his judgements of political cases.
He also failed to show impartiality during the government of former president Daniel arap Moi.
One of the cases cited by the Board involved an election petition filed by Kenneth Matiba against Moi after Kenya’s first multi party election of 1992. The judge, according to the Board, castigated Matiba who was paralysed and was unable to sign the election petition papers.
“He castigated the petitioner in an ungenerous, uncalled for manner that manifested no sensitivity that the fact that he could well have been paralysed as a result of torture and appeared to carry favour with the incumbent president,” Rao said.
“In all of highly publicised political matters his decisions appeared to lean in favour of authoritarian repression rather open up pathways for democratic expression.”
“These members also felt that the judge had not shown sufficient capacity for introspection and ability to analyse in an objective manner the severe judicial failures for which he had been responsible at a difficult time in the life of the nation.”
He added: “The judge on his own admission stated that they had failed Kenyans and the victims of the Nyayo House torture chambers, but he showed inadequate appreciation of how deeply and negatively the actual judgements he had delivered had impacted on public confidence in the fairness of the Judiciary.”
“A minority of members on the other hand were of the view that the manner in which he had adjudicated had to be seen in the context of the repression of the times; that he was not a corrupt judge… that he had made many positive contributions to the judiciary over the years and that he still had a major contribution to make in the new constitutional dispensation,” his indictment said.
“The decision of the board my very substantial majority – with two members dissenting – is that the judge is not suitable to continue to serve.”
However, Rao added; “at the same time, the board wishes to highlight a total absence of any instance relating to corruption in regard to the judge.”
The board said its decision was final and not appealable.
On his part, Justice Samuel Bosire was accused of condoning torture of suspects during the Moi regime.
He was also indicted for failing to summon the former president who was adversely mentioned in the Goldenberg scandal when he served as chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the multi-billion shilling scam.
Bosire defied a High Court order that directed him to issue summons to Moi and other senior government officials who were accused in the multi billion shillings scandal.
“The defiance of the High Court order then was to protect the very people the public expected would be called to account for their activities,” Rao said.
The Board said the judge was very defensive of the rotten status of the judiciary.
Justice Joseph Nyamu was hounded out of office for his conduct when he headed the Constitutional Review division of the court, during which time the Board said he frustrated efforts to prosecute high ranking officials over the Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg corruption scandals.
The two mega scandals cost Kenyan tax payers in excess of $1 billion. The Goldenberg scandal which was carried out through fictitious gold and diamond exports crippled the economy during the 1990s.
Emmanuel O’Kubasu was also sent packing after being accused of accepting gifts from litigants.
The only reprieve the sacked judges have is seeking a review by the same panel.
The board nonetheless returned a clean bill of health for judges Onyango Otieno, Erastus Githinji, Alnashir Visram, Philip Waki and Philip Tunoi who is now a Supreme Court judge.