, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Saturday faulted the tribunal set up by President Uhuru Kenyatta to probe six judicial service commissioners saying that it is an attempt to paralyse independent institutions.
Odinga said the government was using its numbers in Parliament to push through legislation that is threatening a number of independent bodies.
“The National Assembly has already enacted the Kenya Information and Communication Bill, which contains severe limitations on the freedom of the media in Kenya,” Odinga cited.
“Currently, the National Assembly is debating amendments to the Public Benefits Organizations Act, the passage of which will severely limit funding for civil society organizations in the country, and bring an end to the culture of civic vigilance which is an important source of the freedoms that we enjoy in this country.”
He went on say that the same MPs were the ones who initiated a probe into the Judicial Service Commission, which has led to the president forming the tribunal.
“Viewed together, these three developments lead to the conclusion that the Jubilee government is determined to bring an end to all autonomous institutions in the country.”
“A pattern of a return to repression is taking shape. What is being attempted currently is to establish a country of presidential and legislative tyranny, and where no other institution in and out of the government will be allowed a voice,” explained Odinga.
The opposition leader has at the same time faulted the four people named into the tribunal, saying they were close associates of the Jubilee Coalition.
“The choice of members of the tribunal to look into the suitability of the six members of the JSC merits comment. All four have close ties with the ruling party.”
He added; “the inescapable conclusion is that their selection is motivated by a desire to reach a pre-determined outcome. The proposed tribunal is, therefore, an act of deception, clothed in the formalities of a constitutional process. CORD rejects both the individuals selected and the idea of the Tribunal, and calls upon the president to revoke the appointment.”
In the statement, Odinga said that his party has taken blows in the hands of the Judiciary, whose decision in the presidential election petition they did not agree with but accepted.
“We did so because we believe in the rule of law, which is now under attack through the actions of the President and the National Assembly,” he said.
The former Premier also attributed the current wrangles in the Judiciary to the lack of a proper leadership framework within the institution.
“There was a failure of leadership when the Speaker of the National Assembly allowed the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee to assume jurisdiction over the dispute between the Judicial Service Commission and the former Chief Registrar of the Judiciary despite the fact that this was an internal issue of the Judiciary and secondly, notwithstanding the fact that the matter was still under deliberation within the JSC.”
“There was also a failure of leadership when the National Assembly adopted the report of the Legal Affairs Committee calling for a tribunal for the removal of the six members.”
“Better counsel would have led to the search for a more amicable way of dealing with this matter at that point.”
“The President had a choice to accept the recommendation of the National Assembly for the appointment of a tribunal or to reject the recommendation.”
“He could have used the opportunity presented to him to bring about dialogue among the concerned branches with a view to averting the crisis that we are now experiencing.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta suspended six Judicial Service Commissioners and formed a four-member Tribunal to investigate their conduct.
The explosive decision saw Commissioners Ahmednasir Abdullahi, Samuel Kobia, Christine Mango, Mohamed Warsame, Emily Ominde and Florence Mwangangi vacate their offices to pave way for investigations.
The tribunal will interestingly be led by retired Justice Aaron Ringera, who is remembered for the 2003 radical surgery in the Judiciary.
Other members who will probe the six Commissioners are Jennifer Shamallah, Ambrose Otieno Weda and Mutua Kilaka.
“I ask that the Tribunal work to complete its task fairly and expeditiously so that the Commission and indeed the entire Government can continue the work necessary to deliver justice to all Kenyans without compromise,” said Kenyatta through a statement.
“Fellow Kenyans I wish to reiterate that the suspension of the six members of the Judicial Service Commission will not hamper the administration of justice in the country. Judges and magistrates will continue dispensing justice within courtrooms. No Kenyan will be turned away as a result of today’s action.” It added.
According to a gazette notice dated November 29, the mandate of the Tribunal shall be to investigate the alleged conduct of the said members of the Judicial Service Commission and determine whether it discloses grounds for removal of any or all of them from office under Article 251 (1) of the Constitution.