NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 1 – Senior Counsel Nzamba Kitonga wasn’t too concerned with political correctness when he appeared before the Judicial Service Commission Thursday to be interviewed for the post of Chief Justice.
Attorney General Githu Muigai even labelled his views on land rights as “radical” when he said he wouldn’t hesitate to order the eviction of squatters given sanctity of the title deed.
He didn’t hum and haw round the question of atheism either, saying they had the right to be registered an association given Kenya is a secular state. This despite Kenyans – as the Attorney General put it – being, “notoriously religious.”
Kitonga was also unequivocal in his view of witchcraft as a crime, “as much as some people in my community ascribe to it.”
“It is fraud,” he said of the posters that promise to ‘restore lost wealth, love and recover stolen items.’
He wasn’t shy about setting Muigai straight either when the AG labelled him an ‘outsider’ in the context of not having served on the bench and yet seeking to lead those who had, for years.
“I don’t regard myself as an outsider because I’m in court every day, I see how the courts run. I’m the one who knows the suffering that we undergo at the registry. You go to the underground cells where people are held and you can see the stench that comes out from there. This is what I call an insider.”
Given all his forthrightness, he was however not comfortable with the label ‘activist’ which he said carried “negative connotations.”
Should he succeed in his quest to be the next Chief Justice, Kitonga said, he would rely more on his diplomatic nature to smooth relations between the judiciary and legislature given the “irritation” the latter displayed when the scales of justice tilted to their disadvantage and which led them to wield the stick of budget cuts at the Judiciary.
“They need civic education,” Kitonga said, “on what exactly is the work of judges.”
The making of the Constitution – which he helped midwife as the Chair of the Committee of Experts that drafted it – was after all, an exercise in finesse.
That being said, he admitted, it was by no means perfect and would at “an appropriate time” require “auditing.”
He however sought to make clear that the ‘two-thirds’ gender debacle the country finds itself in wasn’t of their making.
“As far as I’m concerned the problem of achieving this gender requirement in the National Assembly and the Senate… this was not our work. This was the work of Naivasha because the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was not given the opportunity to be able to reduce the number of seats so that we can achieve the gender requirement but not also have a bloated National Assembly and Senate so since it is their work, I expect they’ll solve that problem.”